After a trying school year in which the vast majority of time for both students and staff was spent at home, Tigard High School graduates managed to gather in one spot one final time for a Senior Celebration.
Held June 9 at the Tigard High School football stadium, the Celebration was a facsimile of a traditional graduation event in all but name. There were speeches from valedictorians, staff and Principal Brian Bailey. Students wore their caps and gowns, turned their tassels and tossed their caps skyward to the cheers of delighted parents. And twenty-nine valedictorians achieving at least a 4.0 grade point average and 18 International Baccalaureate Diploma candidates were also recognized.
The only element missing was the actual handing out of diplomas, which took place three days later during a drive-through event similar to the one held a year ago as the COVID-19 pandemic took a firm grip on Oregon and the rest of the country.
“I think the parents had a really good time and it was something the students wanted to do this year,” said Assistant Principal Angelita Miller. “They were the ones who advocated for themselves; they wanted the feeling of being on the football field. That would be where we normally would do their graduation ceremony and our kids wanted to be down there and feel like it was normal.”
Students in the Tigard-Tualatin School District last gathered for in-person classes 454 days before the Senior Celebration, in March of last year. And at the time, no one really had any notion of just how long the pandemic would drag on.
“We had hoped that we would return to normal in time for you to enjoy this wonderful year,” Bailey said to the graduating student body. “At that time, we had absolutely no idea the impact that this pandemic would have on our world, our state, our community, and most importantly, on you. You lost almost the entire senior experience.”
That may be true. But others reminded students to remember the entirety of their school experience rather than just focusing on the challenges of the past year.
“For many, graduation is a mark of achievement, symbolizing the child’s transition to adulthood. I see graduation a little differently,” said student speaker Jonathan Nguyen. “Graduation is not only a symbol of achievement or an end, but rather an accumulation of experiences and relationships. I compare it to when we break down a novel into its components and narrative arc, appreciating its intricacies and evolution and seeing it as an evolution.”