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Albion grads get personalized ceremony

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 June 2020 at 6:53 pm

Commencement will be virtual on Friday with senior parade in vehicles

Photos by Tom Rivers: Geno Allport hugs his daughter Callie after she graduated in a personalized ceremony last Thursday. The district did personal ceremonies for all members of the Class of 2020 because of the limitations on large gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic.

ALBION – It was stretched out nearly 35 hours, the personalized graduation ceremonies for 135 members of the Class of 2020.

Albion completed the individual graduations on Saturday. They were spaced out every 15 minutes. It took more than a week to have all the students come through. They brought their families and close friends.

“It made it more special,” said Mekhi Rivera, who received his diploma last Thursday. “My family was right there with me while I walked through the cafeteria, down the hallway and then right up to the stage.”

Photo courtesy of Sue Starkweather Miller: Salutation Katelyn Spierdowis delivers her speech which will be shared online Friday during a virtual commencement. District Superintendent Michael Bonnewell is at left, next to Kathy Winans, the senior class advisor.

The district tried to create an almost-normal graduation ceremony. Pomp and Circumstance was played, High School Principal Jennifer Ashbery announced their names, the grads walked up a riser, then they walked to the center of the stage and Board of Education President Kathy Harling handed them their diplomas.

They smiled for a photo with the BOE president, and then moved down the line to be congratulated by Kathy Winans, the senior class advisor, and then Michael Bonnewell, the district superintendent.

Then the graduates walked down the riser, stopping briefly to get their picture taken by their families.

Callie Allport gets ready to walk up the riser and accept her diploma. From left on stage include Superintendent Michael Bonnewell, Senior Class Advisor Kathy Winans, BOE President Kathy Harling and Principal Jennifer Ashbery.

Geno Allport takes a video of his daughter Callie Allport as she walks down the riser after receiving her diploma.

After they received their diplomas, students returned to the stage for photos with their families.

It some ways, the graduates liked it better than the traditional ceremony, when 2,000 people pack the high school gym and it can feel hectic after the ceremony, with a big crowd gathered on the front lawn of the school.

This year, it is a quieter commencement but it still proved meaningful to graduates.

Callie Allport had her family and close friends at her graduation. She said she would have liked to have her classmates by her side, but having her family up close proved extra special.

Mekhi Rivera is happy after receiving his diploma last Thursday. He is pictured with his girlfriend Mercy Sugar, his mother Sandra Rivera, and brother Israel Florentino.

In many ways, it felt like the usual high school graduation at Albion. But the gym was;t packed. And there weren’t other classmates in the front rows.

Mekhi Rivera misses his classmates. He said he has only seen a few close friends since the school was closed in mid-March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s been hard not seeing my friends and the teachers,” Rivera said.

Mehkyron Drisdom received his diploma last week in a personalized ceremony.

Mekhi’s mother Sandra Rivera has attended several Albion graduations. She appreciates the district’s efforts to have a ceremony for each graduate because a large ceremony isn’t possible during the Covid-19 pandemic. The state has capped graduations at no more than 150 people.

She would have liked her son to have been with all of his classmates and a large contingent from the community.

“This was different,” she said after her son walked the stage. “I like it with the gym full. You can feel the love in the air.”

The district will compile the individual ceremonies and put them together in a virtual graduation to be aired online Friday at 8:20 p.m. That will include the student speeches by Valedictorian Ashlyn LeBaron, Salutatorian Katelyn Spierdowis and Class President Angel Rosario Soto.

The ceremony will be presented after a senior parade in vehicles on the school campus. Seniors will start to line up at 6:30 p.m. at the middle school.

Molly Wadhams continued one commencement tradition: a photo on the front lawn with the class numbers.

Molly Wadhams would have preferred the big graduation ceremony with all of her classmates. She said the past three months have been difficult for seniors who missed their senior prank, senior skip day, baccalaureate and other time with their friends. She also was looking forward to her final time on stage in a school musical. But the Little Mermaid was also cancelled in April. (Wadhams is majoring in musical theater at Geneseo in the fall.)

Molly Wadhams is happy after receiving her diploma.

She is hopeful the senior prom can still happen. It was scheduled for June 12, but now is scheduled for Aug. 6.

“It has been hard but you can’t change it,” she said about a senior year during a pandemic.

She also liked appreciated that the school changed one policy for the personalized graduations. They let the seniors decorate the mortar boards on the graduation caps. Wadhams’ mortarboard had a musical theme, “End of Act One 2020.”

Her mother Pam Wadhams has had two other children graduate from Albion. As a parent, she wanted Molly to be recognized at graduation with her classmates.

“It’s nice we can do this,” Mrs. Wadhams said about the personalized graduation. “But it is a little sad because her friends aren’t here.”

Molly Wadhams is ending Act One and looks forward to the next chapter in her life.

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