Every high school graduating class has its memories, and the class of 2020 at École secondaire catholique régional de Hawkesbury (ESCRH) will remember a most unconventional graduation.

The 94 grade 12 students at ESCRH had already been out of class since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and continued restrictions on indoor gatherings made it impossible for a traditional graduation ceremony to take place.  To ensure the graduates were still specially recognized, school staff got creative.

On Thursday, June 18 at 11 a.m., the students participated in a private graduation ceremony video link that had been established by the French-language Catholic school board, the L’Orignal-based Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien (CSDCEO).  That afternoon at 1 p.m., a long line of automobiles formed on Kitchener Street in front of the school and onto nearby West Street.  One by one, cars stopped, and Kodiak graduates wearing gold mortar caps disembarked and teachers directed them to a red carpet leading to a dais where ESCRH principal Joey Bédard presented each student with their Ontario Secondary School Diploma.  Each student’s name, the awards they were receiving, and future career/education plans were announced.  Extended family and friends watched from the parking lot, and students then recessed along Kitchener Street where more teachers and well-wishers applauded and shouted greetings.

A drone buzzed in the sky just above the red carpet, capturing the diploma ceremony on video.  Hawkmyer is preparing a graduation video for each ESCRH graduate.

“It’s been quite a year,” Bédard remarked.  Before the pandemic shut schools in March, students periodically missed days in class due to rotating strikes by teachers during labour negotiations with the Ministry of Education.

In the days leading up to the ceremony, ESCRH made sure that the graduates were recognized in the community.  Parent Nathalie Tweed of Vankleek Hill said two teachers arrived at her home one morning with a yard sign saying to indicate this is the home of an ESCRH graduate and had included a small gift for her son, graduate (and former co-op student at The Review), Jean-Michel Tweed.

The unique graduation events at ESCRH were among several taking place at all seven CSDCEO secondary schools on June 18.

“Congratulations to you dear graduates, good luck and know that your 2020 cohort will be among the group of graduates who will go down in history with a unique graduation celebration. “, said CSDCEO Director of Education and Secretary, François Turpin.

Watch a short video of the drive-through graduation ceremony at ESCRH:

ESCRH graduate receiving her diploma at the June 18 drive-through ceremony. Photo: James Morgan