A Graduation for the Books: Congrats 2020 Tigers!

Atop his vehicle, senior Aaron Esau waves to the crowd of teachers. Photos by Henry Kaus

Tigard’s 2020 graduation truly was one for the books.

While normally filling stands and the Tigard football field at this time of year—but amidst the COVID-19 pandemic—THS drove down to the streets of Cook Park in what they called their drive-thru graduation.

Through the north parking lots at the park, students and their families formed a parade of vehicles hundreds of cars long. Teachers lined the lot with pom-poms, signs, streamers and, of course, masks.

Students picked up their yearbooks, coincidentally titled Everything Changes, along with a program of events. Once in line, students sat atop their cars, lounged in the back of pickups and frankly did as they pleased from the comfort of their vehicles.

Despite the event having been wildly different and unique, new ideas and concepts were tried that simply weren’t previously possible.

This year, seniors could decorate their caps for the first time. Formerly, this was prohibited due to the desired (and controversial among students) idea of uniformity when the seniors sat as a collective group. A few seniors even ditched the idea of traditional graduation attire entirely and had shown up in casual clothing. 

Among the students, Tigard senior Selena Li said she thought that the event was executed better than any other formal graduation. 

“I didn’t think we were going to do graduation at all,” she said. “I was expecting an email telling us that our diplomas will be mailed to us this summer, but I think I would actually prefer the drive-thru graduation over a traditional ceremony. My family and I were impressed at how much was prepared and put into our graduation day. I was not left disappointed at all.”

Of course, at the end of the line, seniors could walk up and out of their decorated vehicles to their first-year Tigard principal, Brian Bailey, and receive their diploma cover where a few photo opportunities awaited them.

“Our graduate was able to get out and receive her diploma and we were up close to see that. It still is a very proud moment for our family. I appreciate all the effort they took to make it special for the grads,” Kerri Burke, a family member of a Tigard grad said.

With an event that usually attracts thousands of friends and family members and unfortunate timing, spectators beyond the immediate family were not allowed this year. In its place was a Facebook live stream that amassed a few hundred viewers throughout its duration.

Following the main event was a virtual commencement as speeches, honors and performances were held off until after the drive-thru graduation.

With the seniors missing much of their final year, the school threw in a lot of effort into this graduation, which made it just as, if not more memorable for the families and their graduates.

“The support from the teachers and administration was amazing. This could have gone either way, but from our perspective, graduation was done very well,” Karen Blodgett, the mother of a 2020 graduate said. “I will admit, although the regular graduation ceremony has always been a nice event, the energy level of the drive-thru was a lot of fun.”