GERONIMO — The graduating classes of 2020 might not necessarily get a traditional, sit-down commencement ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But on Thursday night, the town of Geronimo gave its seniors a sense of belonging and family that a normal commencement probably would not have been able to provide.
A graduation parade, featuring seniors in everything from pickups to sports cars, and led by a police escort, made its way from the elementary school, down Main Street and up to the high school, where each of the 23 seniors received their diploma cover from Principal Heath Selcer. All along the way, they were greeted by cars lined up with honking horns, friends and family members waving and holding signs. It was a fitting tribute for a group that had its senior year shaken up two months ago.
“It kind of brought us all together,” senior Erin Scott said. “We all get to have this one big night before we head off and start our next chapters.”
It might not have been what the seniors had expected, but it was still much more than many other schools got. Senior Carolina Cornejo said she feels for the groups of seniors who didn’t get to have any sort of ceremony or celebration, and was extremely grateful for the efforts put in by the community.
“It makes me really happy to see everyone come together,” Cornejo said.
The coronavirus made life more difficult on people from all walks of life. For those preparing to graduate, it meant the last two months of school were far from orthodox. Cornejo’s father, Felipe Juarez, said he knows it’s been tough on his daughter and her classmates, being forced to do school work strictly from home and being cooped up in the house, but the parade was a great graduation present for a class who had endured a unique set of circumstances.
“It’s been kind of hard on the kids,” Juarez said. “I’m glad they’re at least doing this for them.”
The parade also served as something of a class reunion, as many of the students had not seen one another since March. Makayla Holmes said she had not seen any of her classmates during the quarantine period, which made the time she got to spend with them before the parade all the more special.
The parade and ceremony were also a culmination of more than a decade together in many cases. With Geronimo having just one school district, most of the graduates have known each other since they first started school.
“Most of us have been together since at least first grade,” Jadyn Taylor said. “It’s a family-like feeling, and I definitely consider them lifelong friends.”
Taylor said he was grateful and surprised by the way the community was able to band together for such a big event. For a graduating class of 23, at least 50 cars lined the sides of Main Street to show their support for the graduates. Even people like John Roche, who had no blood relation to any of the graduates, were there to make sure the Class of 2020 felt special.
“There’s more people here than just those who have kids at the high school,” Roche said. “I’m quite surprised to see the town come together. It makes you proud to actually live in the town of Geronimo.”
Despite all the inconveniences the virus has caused, there was no griping or grumbling Thursday night. After all, the bad weather missed the parade. Plus, the seniors know that, in the long run, not holding a close-quarters commencement will prove to be the right move.
“I’m so glad we got to have this,” Scott said. “I’m OK with not having a graduation if it means future classes get to have their senior years.”