This year's graduating class of Poplar Springs High School may not have a ceremony. Principal Farica West decided to step in and give them the send-off they deserve.
After four years of struggling with difficult classes, extracurriculars, and general high school drama, the class of 2020 was looking forward to graduating. However, the ongoing pandemic has thrown a spanner in their plans. While some high school seniors will graduate online, others have had their graduating ceremonies postponed or altogether canceled. As you can assume, this has been quite disheartening for seniors who were excited to wear their caps and gowns to walk across a stage and collect their diploma. Therefore, a principal at a Florida high school came up with a clever way to honor the graduating class of 2020 and make them feel special, Fox News reports.
Principal Farica West of Poplar Springs High School in Graceville, Florida, (now shut down as a result of stay-at-home directives) wanted to make sure her graduating class of 30 students got the special send-off they deserved. Determined to give her students the recognition they earned, she reached out to the photographer who took the students' senior portraits. West shared, "I called him up and I said, ‘What can you do for our kids?’ I really envision in my mind their senior portraits laying down the driveway." She then had the photos enlarged and printed. Finally, she lined the school building's scenic driveway with the photos in honor of the graduates.
This is such an awesome idea! https://t.co/q6kOVht7WL— Germaine Brooks (@ghardenbrooks) April 19, 2020
She said, "They’re missing a lot of the memorable moments that we all hold near and dear to our hearts throughout our whole lives." Now, people are driving out from neighboring states in order to visit the driveway. The principal stated, "People who don’t even have students here, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi... Have driven over just to drive through and see and honor our students." The class of 2020, too, have enjoyed the special display. Peyton Brannan, a senior at Poplar Springs, said, "Seeing this display is really, really encouraging because you start to see that everything that you’ve worked for is not a complete waste... [It's] wonderful, it's very unique. A lot of principals have been doing things for their students and it's a really nice gesture. I mean I don't think she could've done it any more perfect, it's a wonderful idea and very thoughtful."
Florida high school's unique display: Poplar Springs celebrates class of 2020 -- https://t.co/JBOrvhpYpA— TheGreyAreaNews (@TheGreyAreaNC) April 18, 2020
Another senior, Dalton Wilkinson, shared, "I pass by my school every day I go to work and every time I look out there I just get to see the banners and everything else and just see our faces out there on the drive. So it is definitely something that gives you comfort." The high school is somewhat of "the center of their close-knit community," principal West claimed, which is why the display is so important. It has shown the residents of Graceville that they will get through the ongoing pandemic together - as they always have. She said of the display she orchestrated, "Instead of remembering I didn't get the end to my senior year I wanted, they'll remember my picture was right there and my grandma saw it, and my dad saw it, and my mom saw it. I got my picture made by my banner and they'll bring back a smile to their face instead of an empty spot."
The students of Poplar Springs High School are set to go back to school by May 1. However, the stay-at-home order may be extended if the need arises. Principal West has thus affirmed that the school will find another way to "make up for it" if the senior class is unable to hold graduation this year. Shirley Owens, a former student of Poplar Springs and now a school board member for the district, recently attended her 50th-year class reunion. She had a message for the class of 2020: "We laughed and cried and talked about all of our memories and I don't remember a single memory about the graduation itself. It was all those memories that we had from 1st grade through 12th grade. So I would like to say to the seniors, COVID-19 can't take that away from them, those memories will be there for a lifetime."