The Saucon Valley High School Class of 2020 celebrated a milestone achievement Saturday–graduation–in a way no other class has before. To their credit, students and their families made the most of the unique drive-thru ceremony, which was made more meaningful because of the hurdles that had to be cleared just for it to be held.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic that began in March, Lehigh Valley residents are currently restricted to gathering in groups of no more than 25 people, and it was unclear for a time if there would even be a commencement ceremony for the Panthers this year.
Eventually a plan was finalized that would allow for the ceremony to be held outside at the the high school, where speakers and the presentation of diplomas were filmed for projection onto a Jumbotron located along the north side of the parking lot. Mobile Technology Graphics of Lower Saucon Township donated it for use at the occasion.
The stage upon which speakers addressed those seated in their vehicles was located at the edge of the bus loop outside the entrance to the high school.
Audio for the ceremony was available by tuning in a car radio receiver to a preset frequency, and the entire ceremony was livestreamed on YouTube so family members and friends who were unable to attend could watch it in real time.
In order for the ceremony to be held at the high school, each graduate’s family was allowed to bring only one vehicle, which is why many families came in Suburbans, passenger vans and large-sized types of transportation.
Families and graduates were required to remain inside their vehicles throughout the ceremony, except if a restroom break was needed. Portable restrooms were located at the edge of the parking lot for use during those occasions.
The other exception was for the presentation of diplomas to graduates, although social distancing requirements meant that students had to maintain six feet of space between each other and school district administrators as they completed the rite of passage.
There were no handshakes or hugs outside of family units, and students wore face masks as they approached the stage, taking them off before they walked onto it to pick up their diploma.
As each senior walked to the edge of the bus loop and then around it, their family’s vehicle entered and followed them around the loop, stopping for photos of their child picking up his or her diploma and then again for shots in between black and red balloon “pillars” that along with other decorations were purchased with money raised by parents.
Instead of applause, car horns were sounded, and most vehicles were decorated with signs, streamers, balloons and writing to celebrate the young man or woman inside it.
The entire ceremony lasted about two-and-a-half hours, and received praise from those who attended, many of whom commented on the impressive level of organization that had gone into creating such a unique event.
Since most teachers were unable to attend this year, many waited at the edge of the school distrit campus, where they cheered and held up signs congratulating the Class of 2020 as vehicles exited onto Walnut Street. The names of students were also written on the sidewalk in chalk, as another way of recognizing them.
The student speakers and class officers who spoke at the ceremony included: Kennedy Morgan, valedictorian; Zachary Appel, salutatorian; Monem Rizvi, class president; Paige Penizotto, class vice president; Anna Inglis, class secretary; Nicholas Snead, class treasurer; Abigail Altemose, Student Government Association president; and Talitha Diggs, student-selected speaker.
Faculty presenters were Melissa Maynard and Mario Marcozzi, and the Saucon Valley High School choir performed virtually under the direction of Chad Miller.
Presenting diplomas to students were superintendent Dr. Craig Butler, principal Tamara Gary, assistant principal Amy Braxmeier, athletic director Robert Frey and school board president Dr. Shamim Pakzad.
As our way of recognizing the Saucon Valley High School Class of 2020, Saucon Source will provide each family with a complimentary high resolution image of their graduate. To receive the image file, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your son or daughter’s name and put “Grad Photo” in the subject line. Photos are for personal use and courtesy of Saucon Source LLC and Christopher J. Christian Photography.
Note: Graduate photos are below. Additional photos from the ceremony will be published in a separate gallery.