WHAT A SWELL (GRADUATION) PARTY IT WAS!

Imagine that your school has 182 high school seniors who have been looking forward to graduation for, well, four years. Years of study, planning, work and play, and then the rug is pulled out from under everyone. Quarantine!! No gatherings, no ceremonies, no celebrations. Not just your school, but worldwide. Of course, it’s not imagination. Its the 2020 Reality Show.

The staff and teachers at Saint Joseph Academy in Cleveland had already (along with educators around the globe) reconfigured classes. Online, video chat, email, conferences, whatever it took, they got it figured out, and finished the year.

But then there was graduation, filled with elegance and tradition: white cap and gown, a dozen red roses for each graduate, the walk down Rocky River Drive. All gone? Maybe not…

I imagine the conversation: We need to keep everyone apart right now. No more than 10 people gathered together. What if we held a private graduation for each student? They could have parents and grandparents attend, and receive their diploma one family at a time. All 182? But that would take (doing the math) three days. Three entire days. Let’s do it!!

So on May 18, 19 and 20, Commencement commenced. For three days, the roses were delivered. The graduates, in their white cap and gown, came with their families to church at their scheduled time, 5 minutes apart. Families, masked and socially spaced, gathered around the altar to cheer as their daughters received their diploma, and had the traditional photo taken.

Then, moving outside to make way for the next family, (this is where I come in) they came to my Studio in a Tent in front of church for a family portrait, as an additional gift from Saint Joes. They were not my usual portrait sessions, it was more like photos with a celebrity, and each graduate was indeed a celebrity. It was an amazingly fun and organized three days.

But wait, there’s more!

Last night, the school reserved the AUTORAMA Drive in Theater. Each Jaguar could bring two cars filled with family. The decorated cars rolled in, met by cheering staff and teachers, to gather and hear commencement speeches and see the entire class graduate on the big screen. What a week!

And truly, what a year. The graduates of 2020 have not just earned their diploma, but have also received a Masterclass in Making Things Work When the World goes Crazy. Priceless.

Full disclosure: my daughter in law, Jill Garlock, went to Saint Joseph Academy, and now is a teacher and head of the math department there. Our grand daughter will be attending next year. There are so many multi generational families at Saint Joes, who love this school. And this amazing celebration graduation shows their love and dedication is returned.

Thanks for making me part of the family.

Katie Garlock

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