Highlands Ranch seniors say goodbye in parade

‘It’s hard not having a proper graduation’

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Without the opportunity to hold a traditional graduation ceremony, seniors and staff from ThunderRidge High School gathered May 15 for a socially distanced goodbye parade.

Teachers lined up on a parking lot sidewalk at the Highlands Ranch school while wearing face masks and carrying decorated posters congratulating the Class of 2020. Meanwhile, seniors drove by in decorated vehicles, many sitting in truck beds or standing outside sunroofs as they waved to their teachers.

“We didn’t think it would end like this,” said Diann Schultz, a psychology teacher at the school. “It’s hard not having a proper graduation.”

Some students cheered and laughed and others shed tears as they drove past the faculty.

“This class was so awesome. They were a very close-knit class,” Schultz said. “I’m just really proud of them.”

Even though it wasn’t the ceremony they originally had in mind, teachers expressed their appreciation for the unusual event.

“Seniors missed out on so many rites of passage. It was important for us to see them physically,” English teacher Denise Orsini said. “This was as good for us as it was for them.”

With the original graduation canceled, the district is considering three alternate plans depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic progresses in Colorado.

Plan “A” is a June 24 graduation at EchoPark Stadium in Parker, and plan “B” would be in the same location July 22. The final option would be a virtual graduation if it is not possible to do a live event, according to the Douglas County district webpage. 

“It’s important for them to know they’re loved and welcome back anytime,” Orsini said. “Because they’re a Grizzly.”

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