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Encore High School COVID-19 and Graduation: A Ceremony to Remember

HESPERIA, CA— Who knew how much Covid-19 was going to change the world?  In the blink of an eye, their senior year was over.  The Class of 2020 definitely has a senior year that is one for the books. 

It doesn’t matter how each individual school has decided how they will end their senior year, the Class of 2020 is living a story that they will tell for the rest of their lives.  Their grandchildren will hear stories about rationed toilet paper and how their generation redefined education and how school works.  This Covid-19 graduation is one that everyone will remember.

It is a time for creativity for school officials.  This American tradition for students completing high school means so much to students and their families.  People use high school graduation to fly in and have family reunions and celebrate a milestone.  School administration is scrambling this year to make sure that their graduation is as memorable as the pandemic will allow. 

Since everyone is at home, parents and students are weighing in because they feel like they were cheated (because they were) and look to the school administrations to “pull a rabbit out of the hat” to make this milestone the same as in year’s past.  The hard thing is, it can’t be the same.  The world is different.


(Photo: Encore Junior Senior High School for the Arts//Facebook)

Graduation Ceremony – Holding the ceremony in a way that is deserving of students graduating from high school during a pandemic is tricky.  The administration knew they would have to get creative.  They started with trying to rent a parking lot or drive-in theater to host the event, but the rules of the pandemic shut that down.  Having a ceremony online is easy, but how do you make the cap and gown moment a special one?  Starting on Monday, Encore is building on their creativity for preproduction day.  Seniors have been given specific appointment times to come in for their preproduction day.  When they arrive at school, they will have their temperature taken and then they will get their cap and gown.  Students then travel to a second location where they will pick up their senior swag (awards and accolades that are worn at graduation).  A third location is a staging area for them to get ready by putting on their cap and gown and swag.  Then, the graduates will move into their media blitz with one family member in tow to take photos.

  • Professional Photographer – was hired to take their cap and gown photos on campus.
  • Personal Interview – Each senior will be interviewed for the ceremony
  • Staging Area – Seniors then go into a room where photos will be taken of them receiving their diploma from the administration of Encore
  • Walk to Remember – With all social distancing and COVID-19 rules intact, the seniors will walk to the stage where graduation would have taken place in a normal school year.  Staff will be sitting and ready to greet them as they walk to the graduation stage.
  • Memory Photos – Students get a moment to take selfies and photos with their family member in front of the school logo
  • Class of 2020 – Once their selfie photos are complete, the students will get a final interview where they will be able to give their favorite memory of high school
  • Lock in your high school career – Upon leaving the school for the last time, students will bring a padlock and lock the padlock onto the gate as they leave high school for the very last time.  This gives the seniors a chance to symbolically lock in their high school memories as they leave the school

The Yard Sign – Over a four day period, the administration of Encore surprised every senior (200 of them) with a yard sign to make sure that they knew they mattered.  The sign told them that they were loved.

(Photo: Encore Junior Senior High School for the Arts//Facebook)
(Photo: Encore Junior Senior High School for the Arts//Facebook)
(Photo: Encore Junior Senior High School for the Arts//Facebook)
(Photo: Encore Junior Senior High School for the Arts//Facebook)

Celebration in the Mail – A couple of times each week, seniors have been sent small tokens of gratitude in the mail wishing them luck.  It has been a surprise to see what will come in the mail from keychains to dog tags to beach balls and even a bookmark that was accompanied by their favorite English teacher’s best novels list to read.

Virtual Prom – It started with a virtual prom where all high school students across the country were invited to come.  They hired a professional DJ and mailed prom favors to all of the seniors (and juniors) at the school.  Encore prompted students to decorate their houses, get dressed up, have a Zoom prom dinner with friends, take and post their Selfies, and then dance to the sounds at Virtual prom.  Just under 200 people attended their prom.  

Senior Activities – Encore usually does a huge production on the days leading up to graduation.  This usually includes Universal Studios, an awards ceremony, staff versus seniors dodge ball, mystery night, beach day, senior sunset, and senior breakfast.  In the midst of Covid-19, the rules have changed dramatically, but the sentiment and care are still there. For Encore Seniors, they will start graduation week with a senior breakfast (zoom style on Monday of graduation week).  On Tuesday, they will be able to log on to Zoom for Seniors versus Staff “Family Game Night.”  On Wednesday, they will be able to participate in “The Great Outdoors” where people will share pictures on Instagram of them in their cap and tassel somewhere outside enjoying the weather.  Thursday will bring “Senior Showcase” where a special performance event will air on Twitch of some of Encore’s finest snippets of shows and competitions will be compiled for the seniors to remember their Encore career.  Friday will bring “Senior Sunset” where their teachers will meet with them on Zoom one final time before they are graduated, alumni.  Yes, the activities are different this year, but the seniors still get to experience the fuss that Encore always does to celebrate their seniors.

(By: Steve Nutter, Dean of Students) 

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