High school finds creative ways to honor seniors


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By Sara Vechinski

SAN DIEGO – Cathedral Catholic High School will host the Class of 2020 Appreciation Parade on Saturday, May 23, one of the ways the school is celebrating the graduating seniors in light of health restrictions.

Seniors and their families will be able to drive through the school’s parking lot, from noon to 2 p.m., while teachers, staff, and administrators line the route to honor them as they enter their final week of school. Seniors also will receive their graduation caps and gowns and other gifts and memorabilia that day.

Health authorities banned large gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19. As a result, many high schools in San Diego and across the country switched their senior celebrations to virtual formats or cancelled them altogether. At Cathedral Catholic, the cancelled events included the Senior Boat Dance, prom and Grad Night.

Seniors at Cathedral Catholic remain hopeful that they can attend their graduation in person during the summer. The school has asked them to reserve two potential dates: June 27-28 and July 25-26.

The Dean of Academics, Christy Bailleul, formed committees and conducted a survey to gauge the community’s priorities for senior events.

“My best-case scenario is a live graduation for all of our students,” she said. “I have heard everyone, and a virtual ceremony is not what anyone wants, so I’m doing everything I can to have some kind of in-person ceremony. What that will look like is just going to depend (on federal and local mandates).”

The high school restructured the senior Baccalaureate Mass, originally scheduled for May 28, to a virtual event, which will be live-streamed on May 30 at 6 p.m., with Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan presiding. The honored Don and Dama will be allowed to attend the Mass as representatives of the Class of 2020.

The Senior Awards will be announced before the Mass at 5 p.m. The awards were originally planned to be a part of the Senior Luncheon on May 29.

The high school’s Athletic Director, David Smola, transferred the athletic awards ceremony to an online format. They were live-streamed on the school’s YouTube Channel on May 18.

The Spring National Letter of Intent Signing honored 12 seniors in a video format for earning a roster spot on a college sports team.

“The athletic department is proud of all of our athletes,” Smola said, “and we wish our seniors the best as they transition to college and a new journey.”

In addition to finding ways to make the senior traditions work, the school has found new ways to celebrate their seniors.

Through a donation from Father Mike Ortiz, the school designed and delivered signs for seniors to put in their yards, honoring their status as a part of the unique class of 2020.

“I love how teachers personally delivered these signs, and just seeing all the pictures is so cute,” said Sydney Critser, from the Class of 2020.

“As an unexpected positive, I truly feel as though this pandemic has brought our class closer together than it has ever been before,” she said. “Everyone has been so supportive of each other, and I’ve never seen so much love in our community.”

Students themselves have also found ways to honor each other, such as Luke Meyers ’20, who is organizing a zine, a collection of artwork and other bits of creativity, for the Class of 2020.

“I wanted to put together a bunch of work and fun stuff from everyone that wants (to participate)  in the senior class,” Meyers said in an email to the senior class. “Especially without an art show, it’d be fun to have a little booklet that includes everyone in our class and highlights their creations.”

Alison Viana and Patrick O’Brien, both seniors, and Dillon Tarle, a junior, invited seniors to submit a short video of themselves sharing their college plans, favorite high school memory, and advice to juniors to create a senior send-off video as their National Honors Society project.

Critser found a way to honor the seniors through Instagram with the account @cchs2020dons, where she highlights each with the college they plan to attend, major, and if they committed for a sport. So far, she has honored more than 150 seniors.

Sara Vechinski is Social Media Editor of El Cid, the student newspaper of Cathedral Catholic High School, which has a partnership with The Southern Cross.







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