Every year, in most school districts, there is a day that is given to celebrating the 13 year journey of learning and academic achievement with an age old rite of passage—graduation. Graduation in Suffield has always been about graduates marching out onto the athletic field at the high school to Pomp and Circumstance in white and blue caps and gowns. However, the Coronavirus, school closures and State and Federal restrictions threatened to end this age old passage into adulthood.
As the Class of 2020’s graduation date inched closer, it seemed nearly impossible that the district could get 183 high school graduates and their families at Suffield High School onto Beneski Field to celebrate together due to the social distancing restrictions put into place by the State of Connecticut. Over five weeks, Suffield High School’s 2020 graduation ceremony had many renditions, twists and turns, but in the end, even though the graduation had to break with tradition due to COVID 19, it was a graduation to remember. In collaboration with our district’s leaders, the Board of Education, the high school administration, our First Selectwoman and the Police Chief, the district landed on a drive-in graduation where all students could graduate together while abiding by the state regulations set forth by the Governor’s office. Superintendent Tim Van Tasel demonstrated exceptional guidance, leadership and flexibility throughout the entire planning process. First Selectwoman Melissa Mack displayed partnership and willingness to work collaboratively with the district to ensure not only that our graduates were honored, but that we also kept our community safe. Becky Osleger and Bill Hoff worked tirelessly on the technology and budgetary concerns and put together an event that Hollywood would be proud of in terms of production and quality! Mark Cervione, Larry Plano and their staff beautified the high school grounds and organized over 200 cars so that we could execute a graduation that could be socially distant yet have a personal touch. The high school administrators worked around the clock to organize and plan the details which would encompass the spirit and the sentiment that the graduates desperately wanted and were fearing wouldn’t be realized. Finally, Chief Brown and his police department maintained safety and order of the event which culminated in a senior parade down Mountain Road that brought a tear to the eye of many parents, put a smile on the faces of all of the graduates and a sense of pride to the entire townspeople of Suffield, young and old.
The graduation not only honored our high school seniors who missed so much of their last year in Suffield Public Schools, but it celebrated a school district and a town. The entire town came together during a very dark time in our world and demonstrated resiliency, joy, and hope that brighter days are on the horizon. Suffield Public Schools and the Town of Suffield turned a difficult situation into an event that not only far exceeded expectations but will be remember for a lifetime Congratulations and best wishes the Suffield High Schools Class of 2020!