WARWICK, RI— The Class of 2020 experienced their graduation by appointment at the high school Wednesday afternoon, gathering in separate, small groups of family and friends to wait their turn to walk across the auditorium stage, diplomas in hands.
Their moments were shared with a small number of family allowed into the building with them, streamed live, with prepared remarks from school officials pre-recorded to limit the number of people gathered for the event.
“I wish it was a regular graduation,” one mother said aloud as she walked away from the crowd waiting in the parking lot, her mask down for a socially distant breath of fresh air.
The COVID-19 pandemic threatened to curtail any graduation at all for 2020 graduates, but as Phase II of Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s reopening plan restored additional, albeit limited commerce and socializing, groups large enough to fill auditoriums were still deemed too big a risk for transmission of the highly contagious, deadly virus, for which no proven treatment or vaccine yet exists.
“This is certainly not what any of us envisioned when we thought about your graduation,” said Mayor Joseph J. Solomon in a pre-recorded address to Warwick students. “It’s not what your parents have dreamed about and planned for probably since the day you were born.”
“I hope you have learned how resilient and determined you are. Those are qualities that will come to serve you well no matter what path you pursue in the future. To persevere and continue despite all of the disappointments and challenges that came before you. And now, you have earned your diploma. No one can ever take that away from you, and it’s a big step in building a better future for youself,” Solomon said.
“This has been quite a year. A year like no other in history,” said School Committee Chairwoman Karen Bachus in her own pre-recording. “My advice to you is to be yourself, to continue to persevere, not to be afraid of failure. Your failures make you smarter and stronger. They actually lead you to success,” she said.
“It has been my experience that as difficult as these times are, people are at their best with their expression of their humanity,” said Superintendent Philip Thornton in his recorded remarks. “Having a virtual graduation is certainly something that none of you could have imagined when your senior year began. Still, it is our reality in the midst of this global pandemic event,” Thornton said.