Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremonies are Flawless

Published by The Enterprise on May 27, 2020

By Kristen Griffith

St. Mary’s Ryken High School staff, and bottles of hand sanitizer bottles, were spread out around the perimeter of the basketball court inside the Donnie Williams Center last week. The president and principal were in their gowns on the stage, standing in front of a camera crew who were waiting on the stars — the Class of 2020.

Stage Graduation 20202

Graduate Demetrius Poole is greeted by Principal Cathy Bowes and President Rick Wood.

May 20 was the second of the three-day adjusted graduation plan for the Catholic high school in Leonardtown, and the communication director said it’s been going a lot smoother than expected. Betsy Haley added that she wasn’t sure what to expect but described it as “flawless” so far.

Bowes Graduation Enterprise 2020

Principal Catherine Bowes with Kaela Robinson. Photo by Kristen Griffith. 

The goal was to record each graduate — one at a time — walking across the stage, maintain only a few families in the building at a time but also give each family the opportunity to celebrate their graduates as much as possible. The socially distanced graduation was a result of restrictions put in place to address the coronavirus pandemic, similar to the alternative ceremonies put in place by other schools throughout the region.

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Graduate Matt Getson with his parents, Kristi and Scott, and brother Luke '21. 

The three public St. Mary’s high schools are holding their own adjusted graduations at the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center this week. Great Mills High School graduation was yesterday, and the room for the big event was decorated in green and gold. Graduates posed with the superintendent and school principal who stood behind a clear barrier, and a cutout of Principal Jake Heibel stood outside for more photo ops.

Chopticon High planned to hold its graduation today, and Leonardtown High was slated for tomorrow. The edited film versions of the graduations will be available for viewing next week on the public schools’ websites.

On arrival last week at St. Mary’s Ryken, families were directed to certain areas of the parking lot, which were numbered by row. Once a student’s entire party was present, they were directed inside the building and greeted with cheers and applause.

The cap and gowns were waiting for them downstairs to change into, steamed and ready to go.

“If they wanted to decorate their cap, they’ll be able to do that,” Haley said.

Once they had their temperature checked, and gave their masks to a family member to hold, it was showtime. When a staff member, standing in the doorway, gave the thumbs up, the graduate — in his or her green cap and gown — walked in, headed to the backstage and waited for his or her name to be called.

Names were announced through a microphone like a traditional graduation, and although the audience wasn’t as big, the whole room applauded, while each graduate walked in holding a diploma and posing for the cameras. Picture opportunities continued on the left side of the gym where a backdrop was hanging in front of bleachers. And more pictures were taken outside after families exited through the courtyard.

About 10 families would come in every hour and each graduate could bring up to four people with them.

The recorded stage walks will be edited together, as well as speeches, and aired on the school’s website, YouTube and Facebook pages on Friday, May 29.

Xaverian Orator Christine Shatrowsky 2020

Xaverian Orator, Christine Shatrowky is recorded giving her speech on the stage in the Donnie Williams Center. 

“It’s actually a lot more personable than the regular graduation,” President Rick Wood said, adding he has time to talk to the graduates and families. He said it’s not the experience anyone wanted, but the St. Mary’s Ryken team made it as personable as possible.

The graduation plans were signed off by the health department and EMS after a few alterations. Wood said they were probably on “Plan L,” based on the many revisions.

The president said he was proud of the Class of 2020 who collected $21 million in scholarship money and put in 19,000 service hours. “Despite all these struggles, they had a lot of resilience,” he said. “I’m really proud what they have done.”

Wood said the graduation for the 161 seniors will be “one we’ll never forget. I can tell you that.”

To read more about the Class of 2020 and their achievements, click here. 

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