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August 2020
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Students first - PHS does it right

Across the nation, members of the Class of 2020  have seen their graduation ceremonies cancelled this spring due to COVID-19 and the social distancing guidelines. Considering the death toll, the millions of people who have lost their jobs and the catastrophic impact to businesses, perhaps a seemingly small thing like a graduation ceremony - or the lack of one - may not seem like a big deal.

But it is.

A high school or college graduation ceremony is a life moment; a rite of passage. It’s one of those moments in life right up there with a wedding or a birth and it should be celebrated. Commencement ceremonies are about much more than the physical events, the stadiums and the stages, the caps and gowns. They are intended to honor graduates’ accomplishments, to collectively mark a moment in the lives of kids. 

Regardless of maturity or plans, it’s where kids become adults.

We at the Progress salute the PHS administration for both seeking input from graduates and their families and for doing everything they can to see that students  are rewarded with a ceremony. A big shout out goes to Ellijay Telephone Company, ETC, for their work filming, editing and producing a virtual graduation ceremony. The company has said they will give a digital copy of the ceremony free to all graduates. For that, too, we say thank you. 

This year the podium at Dragon Stadium might be missing - at least for now - but students don’t have to give up the time-honored tradition of graduation thanks to the work of our school administrators. With modern technology and some creativity, seniors will have, at the very least, a virtual ceremony plus, hopefully, an in-person ceremony in Dragon Stadium later this summer. 

In an interview Monday, PHS Principal Chris Wallace stressed how important it is for the graduates to know the community supports them. We agree. 

In addition to working on the graduation ceremony, Wallace said he has 200 yard signs saying things like “Congratulations Seniors” and “We Love Our Seniors” that he hopes to have placed around town within the week. Why? “Just to recognize these kids and to let them know the community supports them and is rooting for them and cheering for them.”

It would have been a lot less work for school officials to just hope that an in-person graduation would work out some time later. But they didn’t take the easy road. Instead they set out to see what parents and graduates wanted with a survey. Wallace said parents were 82-83 percent in favor of both a virtual ceremony and, hopefully, an in-person ceremony later. Approximately 65 percent of the seniors surveyed wanted both as well, he said.

Graduation ceremonies may mean sitting in uncomfortable chairs, being hot and listening to long speeches, but a graduation is not just an end, it’s a beginning and the start of a new chapter in our graduates’ lives. It’s a time to remember the things they have accomplished and to look forward to what lies ahead. 

It’s a moment. And, right now in the age of pandemic, we all could use a glimpse of hope for the future. 

To PHS and Ellijay Telephone Company and all the people and businesses in our community who pulled together for this year’s graduating class, the Pickens Progress says thank you.