Rain began to fall just before the start of Tualatin High School’s drive-thru commencement on June 20 – a contrast to the day before, when it had been 85 degrees and sunny.
The wet weather was just one more curveball for members of the Class of 2020, who saw the tail-end of their senior year drastically altered by the coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in school closures in March, event cancelations and a switch to distance learning.
But pandemic and precipitation notwithstanding, it was a day of celebration. Traveling from a staging area at nearby Horizon Christian School, a caravan of vehicles full of graduates and their families paraded through the parking lot at Tualatin High to the cheers of teachers and staff.
Students exited their vehicles and, while maintaining social distancing, walked along a red carpet to the front of the school, where Principal Michael Dellerba, wearing a facemask and gloves, handed them their diplomas. Family members, still in their cars, drove slowly along as their graduates walked, cheering and snapping photos.
Later in the day, the school held a virtual ceremony that was streamed online.
“This is the 27th class to graduate from Tualatin High School, but the first ever to do so twice in one day and in the middle of a global pandemic,” Dellerba said, summing up the uniqueness of the day’s events.
“Congratulations class of 2020,” he added. “We are all extremely proud of you, and I have no doubt that you will be the change in the world that we so desperately need.”
The virtual ceremony included pre-recorded musical performances and video messages from teachers, school board members and others, including Tualatin High alumnus Brett Harrison, who is a film and television actor; CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers; Carson Kelly of the Arizona Diamondbacks; Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers; and Sportswriter Aaron Fentress.
In her message, graduate Sarah Jones, one of 15 valedictorians, said that she had been dreaming of giving a valedictorian speech since she was in kindergarten.
“I imagined standing at a podium, looking out at my classmates all wearing their caps and gowns.” she said. “But instead, I’m standing outside my house and talking to a camera. And, you know what, I’ve come to realize that’s completely OK, because through this pandemic and through everything that we have gone through as a class since March, I’ve realized that it was never about the speech. It was about coming together and celebrating who we are and who we have become together.”
See the whole virtual ceremony at tualatin-hs.stageclip.com.