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In mid-April, my daughter, Chloe, a senior at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, finished her final college class by logging in on a laptop from her dorm room. A few days later, her school canceled her May graduation ceremony. She is not alone. Similar stories quickly became the lament of high school and college seniors everywhere as a disappointing wave of abrupt school closures, missed proms and annulled graduations induced by the COVID-19 outbreak crashed into our collective celebratory plans.
But if the worst of times brings out the best in people, then Americans are living up to the challenge. Across the country, caring strangers, proud families and enterprising companies are turning this unique moment into an opportunity to say “hip, hip hooray” to the class of 2020. Here, five of our favorites, which may give you your own ideas for celebrating this year's grads.
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Adopt a graduate
Raynee Leslie Branch of Bonney Lake, Washington, used social media for the greater good in April by creating a Facebook page called “National Adopt A 2020 Senior Project” and asked Americans to show some love for high school seniors.
"I came across teens who felt this [coronavirus] somehow took away from their accomplishment, but it's not true, and I wanted to do something to show that they are valued,” Branch says.
As of early May, more than 9,200 teens, whose parents posted their pictures and bios, had been adopted by families across the country who have sent cards and care packages. One recipient, Jonathon Jordan, a graduate of the Baylor School, a private coeducational prep school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, received a bag filled with some of his favorite snacks and candy and a $10 Chick-fil-A gift card from a nearby family. The care package even included a bouquet of flowers for his mother, Sandi.
"It makes my heart smile knowing that strangers are coming together from all over the country to celebrate this class,” says the proud mom.
Plan a drive-by grad parade
Jordan Kriseman of St. Petersburg, Florida, was on track to receive her bachelor of arts diploma at a ceremony May 2 at the University of Florida in Gainesville. But in mid-March, the school instructed students to leave campus and return home over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Not wanting to let her graduation pass uncelebrated, Jordan's parents, Kerry and Rick Kriseman, hired a company to decorate the lawn and house with signs and other decor, and invited friends and family to cruise by their home between noon and 2 p.m. May 2 to wave, honk and do the university's signature Gator Chomp for the grad. Jordan watched the parade of about 24 cars and one cyclist from her front porch in a cap and gown her parents borrowed from family friends.
"I was completely surprised by the yard and house decorations, and the parade of cars,” Jordan says. “It was actually really cool because people who normally wouldn't have been in Gainesville [for the graduation] were able to celebrate with us. I am really grateful to my parents for organizing it."