Choreographed commencement delights parents, grads

Class of 2020 at Glades Central numbers 202

BELLE GLADE — The Glades Central High School virtual graduation ceremony is set to go live online on the Palm Beach County Schools Network website on Friday, June 5, at 6:30 p.m.

Quite a concerted effort of choreographing went on behind the scenes both inside GCHS and in the school board’s office complex in West Palm Beach. It took a big team, both to set up the logistics of getting 202 graduates together for senior awards, cleanup, dropoff, pick-up and a cap, gown and diploma distribution procession, and then to put together the video presentation. This all took place during the past week at the school.

GCHS Principal Melanie Bolden-Morris said the procedures to make it all happen were shaped on the fly, in a blur, and yet they came together as well as they might have, had they been planned last fall without any interference from a worldwide pandemic and resulting near-panic that have wreaked havoc everywhere this year.

She explained that they had to coordinate with the school district’s communications team and officials beforehand.

“They recorded our speeches here at Glades Central — my speech, my val and sal speeches, as well as the students that said the Pledge of Allegiance in the three languages, Spanish, Creole and English, and then the students performed the turning of the tassel and we had a student sing The Star Spangled Banner,” she related.

“So that was when also when the district came out, and we made arrangements for the students to come out with their masks as well as their gloves. In our media center, we had to place them strategically away from each other in various areas … so when the team came in to record, we had them in a different room to where every one of the kids pretty much would say their speech without being in the same area of the other person. So I asked everyone to perform their speech and then they wrapped up at that time.”

The principal agreed that it was an interesting setup, saying some students might have even had some fun doing it.

“It was approximately six kids here — no, seven on the program — and they had not seen each other since we left the school in March. They knew they couldn’t hug. We gave them the CDC guidelines about distance; however, they were so excited to see each other, as well as the team of administrators who were on campus. So it was like a reunion but it was a distant reunion!” Ms. Bolden-Morris said, chuckling.

It was a memorable and even kind of special week of such small gatherings. Then there was a big parade!

But emotions were definitely mixed as they are at any high school graduation, just not as mixed up all together.

“A few of the kids shed tears because they knew that it was probably going to be the last time that they would be in this building — because they haven’t been allowed to come back, only just to come in and record their speech and then leave.

“So they had the opportunity to walk the hallway in a specific part of the school one last time. It was emotional for a few of them, it really was,” she said.

“We distributed diplomas Monday, June 1, to the seniors, so that was like a parade of cars coming through the campus, returning ChromeBooks, equipment, uniforms, textbooks and picking up their cap and gown, their stoles, their medallions, certificates. Some students even picked up their scholarship checks in specific amounts from various companies. So it was an awesome day June 1st. The children decorated the campus so nice, and there were so many tears. It was just great.”

Not only that, it lasted for hours … but at least it wasn’t raining that day.

“It did last almost all day … I tell you, I had sunburn. But I prayed, and He answered my prayers. (Rain) was definitely a concern, so we were equipped with tents so the cars still could come through; however, it was so beautiful on campus.

“We had balloons and our various school color flags all over the campus; we had nice palm trees decorating the entrance as they came in on campus. It seemed like the red carpet, and we just laid it out for them,” Ms. Bolden-Morris continued happily.

“There were a few kids who came in their convertibles with their parents, and you could see the joy and the surprise at how well the campus was decorated on their behalf ,” she said.

Tune in Friday night by going online to gchs.palmbeachschools.org, and a “Graduation 2020” graphic comes up on the slider, where you click and it — until Friday it will take you to the web page palmbeachschools.org/graduation2020. The YouTube link to the video goes live at 6:30 p.m. June 5.

Parents and others have been pleased with the arrangements GCHS and the school district made.

On the school’s Facebook page, someone with the handle “Shy Ray” posted this remark after the June 1 events: “It was really nice today … Thank You all for Everything … God Bless You All!”

The school’s webmaster commented: “Thank you. Our students deserved even more, but administration and staff did their best to make it a special experience!” … to which Shy Ray replied, “Well Done,” with a heart symbol.

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