When schools closed in March all students, Kindergarteners and seniors alike, shifted to a remote learning experience that required connection with teachers and classmates in a different way. For seniors, the last few months have also meant adjusting expectations and reinventing traditions meant to honor the high school graduation milestone.
In Ferndale, generations of senior classes have looked forward to prom, graduation and a parent-sponsored safe graduation night party as well as many important moments including goodbyes to favorite teachers, last sports games and senior award banquets. Even the task of cleaning out lockers and saying goodbye to people and spaces are part of making the transition seem real and the ending complete.
Without those familiar markings the Class of 2020, and the families who love them, have looked for new ways to honor graduates.
A spokesperson for the senior class parents, Fran Genger, says, “Traditionally, senior parents volunteer for a committee that raises money for our Safe Graduation Night Party. Our fundraisers are sale of the Fall Sports Program and the parent-sponsored Senior Class Auction typically held each spring. All of that started off normally in the Fall of 2019 with our sports program sales.” Genger goes on to say, “We were ready to go with our Auction event at the Silver Reef Casino this spring and made the hard decision to cancel because of the COVID-19 situation.”
Genger says that without the auction, parents worried that they would not be able to raise the money needed to celebrate the Class of 2020 in the way they had imagined. She says, “We had all of our auction items already on hand and we decided to pivot and try to do an online auction instead of the in person event we had originally planned.”
The online auction was more successful than the parent committee could have hoped. Fran points to many people throughout the community who donated items, bid on items and donated money.
Community support for the online auction allowed senior class parents to purchase large banner signs to display at key locations around town and special FHS screen-printed masks and t-shirts for each of the graduates.
“We have seen support at every turn,” says Genger. “Businesses have been quick to offer services at or near cost for signs and for screen-printing our special masks.” The masks themselves were made by Ferndale School District staff members.
An in-person Graduation night party may be out of reach because of social distancing requirements, but the parent group is planning for how to put the money to good use including gift certificates for each senior, a legacy gift from the class to be placed in the new FHS Building, and a fund for future class reunions. Reunions will be decided at a later date but the money could pay for a 1 or 5 year reunion and a 10 year reunion. The parent group is continuing its discussions regarding how to earmark all of the money raised.
“This year did not go as expected. We all want our kids to be able to have a graduation with all of the pomp and circumstance that we look forward to every year. That was not in the cards for the Class of 2020. While we are sad about that, we want to thank our wonderful community for coming alongside us and showing such amazing support for our students. On behalf of our parent committee, please accept our gratitude.” Said Fran Genger.