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Lawn signs among creative ways schools honored graduates

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SAN DIEGO – Call it a sign of the times. Staffs at San Diego Catholic schools hop-scotched around the region planting lawn signs, one of the creative ways they found to honor eighth- and 12th-graders whose events were canceled due to COVID-19-related restrictions.

As May gave way to June, these orders forced the schools to cancel proms, awards assemblies, Baccalaureate Masses and commencement ceremonies, switching them to online formats whenever possible.

Administrators held out hope that traditional graduation ceremonies could be held during the summer. And they continued to plan for the return of their students to campus next academic year, likely under new health directives.

“A virtual ceremony is not what anyone wants, so I’m doing everything I can to have some kind of in-person ceremony,” said Christy Bailleul, the Dean of Academics at Cathedral Catholic High School. “What that will look like is just going to depend [on health mandates].”

The school asked seniors to reserve two potential dates for graduation: June 27-28 and July 25-26.
On May 15, the staff of St. James Academy in Solana Beach traveled about 100 miles delivering lawn signs and bags packed with photos and hand-written notes to the 28 graduating eighth-graders.

“We wanted each student to be reminded of their value and to be celebrated, even in these uncertain times,” read the school’s Facebook post.

The students expressed surprise at the VIP treatment they received.

“It’s a little overwhelming but it’s a great experience to have my teachers come and surprise me for graduation,” said Jake Naimi, an eighth-grader at Holy Trinity School in El Cajon.

The school’s principal, Julia Marentez, and staff delivered to the 23 graduating students personalized lawn signs and T-shirts bearing the slogan “Hawk Pride.”

Several schools honored each graduating student in a social media post, complete with a photo and a mention of their accomplishments. These included St. Patrick School, St. Katharine Drexel Academy and St. Vincent de Paul School, all in San Diego. Some announced their award winners this way, including Mater Dei Catholic High School, which delivered lawn signs to the eighth-graders who had won a scholarship to attend their campus the next year.

At St. Mary School in El Centro, the principal, Father Allan White, delivered a farewell message to the eighth-graders through a video posted on Facebook.

“We have watched you grow, develop and mature. We have seen your struggles and we have seen your triumphs. … I hope that when you leave us, you will take something from your St. Mary’s family with you. You will leave something of yourselves with us, and those memories we will always treasure.

“Looking back at your time at St. Mary’s, don’t remember the failures you may have suffered; but the gifts you have received. Don’t remember the slights, you may have endured, but the love that healed them. Don’t remember the quarrels with friends, but only the joy that your friendship has given you. Above all, praise God and trust in His mercy. … Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.”

Sara Vechinski, a student journalist at Cathedral Catholic High School, contributed to this story.

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