George Elliot Secondary School staff rallied behind the Class of 2020 to ensure its 119 graduates had a celebration to remember, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Grad co-ordinator Monica Davidson said the students traditionally walk to the red carpet in their formal wear to their prom, but due to provincially ordered health restrictions to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the 2020 GESS grad was anything but traditional.
Ideas were tossed around about what the grad committee could do to honour the milestone in this unprecedented year.
A 120-car parade through the community and its four wards could allow for parents, neighbours and members of the community celebrate the grads as they drive by in decorated vehicles. The parade would terminate at the red carpet walk where students could collect their diplomas and awards and pose for a photo op for family and loved ones.
The parade idea was squashed when Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced gatherings of no more than 50 also applied to vehicles.
“There was so much red tape at the beginning, we decided to drop that idea,” Davidson said. “We were nervous about the parade because of traffic and safety as well.”
The red carpet walk was still a go, though.
On June 7, students came in small groups every 20 minutes to the parking lot of GESS. There, they were greeted by teachers, a TV crew and family members.
One at a time, the students exited their family vehicle, walked the red carpet and collected their diplomas, all while their family drove alongside them.
“Every parent had a front row seat,” Davidson said, from their cars, of course.
“It was a beautiful day,” she said. “The sun came out amidst the rain. It was a huge success.”
The entire day was captured by SW Event Technology’s founder Cal McCarthy.
That footage, along with speeches from Valedictorian Grace Robinson, school principal and GESS teachers were compiled into a more than two-hour-long film which first aired on YouTube Friday, June 19.
Perspective Media Inc.’s Grant McBride captured aerial drone images and video of the graduates’ red carpet walk.
“We are lucky to be a small grad class and hence able to this for them,” Davidson said about the three-hour event.
But, she said it was a major undertaking to plan the event and she praised the GESS staff and teachers.
“Brendalee Robinson, she was just my sidekick,” Davidson said. “She’s the school secretary and a grad mom and she was my saving grace. I bounced every idea off her.”
Robinson is not only the mother of the valedictorian, but a GESS grad herself, Davidson noted.
“This is a huge celebration for kids and for the community who helped them get here,” Davidson said.
The entire event can be streamed on the Central Okanagan Public Schools’ YouTube channel.