By Leila Sassouni
High school graduation ordinarily includes teenagers sitting on stage at the Tilles Center wearing their cap and gown awaiting the finale of their high school career. However, given the unprecedented situation of the coronavirus, the Great Neck Public School District had to improvise.
This year, graduates of both the North and South High Schools participated in a drive-in graduation event. On June 22, SHS families attended the premiere of their virtual graduation at Bar Beach. The following evening, NHS families did the same to watch their own graduation. The virtual graduation was broadcasted on a 50-foot screen allowing all attendees to watch regardless of their position in the crowded parking lot.
An overview of the Class of 2020 shows that 586 students graduated from the three district high schools. Specifically from the NHS, 264 students graduated. From the SHS, 312 seniors graduated. Lastly, from the Village School, 10 seniors graduated.
Additionally, there are the four students from the NHS and SHS who have received the title of either a Valedictorian or a Salutatorian; each student has an impressive track record with their involvement in school and extracurriculars. The Valedictorian from the NHS is Raymond Lin, alongside Salutatorian Judah Nouriyelian. From the SHS, the Valedictorian is Austin George, alongside Salutatorian Tessie Dong.
As for the drive-in event, the rules implemented for the safety of the attendees were strict in an effort to maintain organization and social distancing. Each family received only one entrance ticket to limit the cars in the parking lot. The ticket barcode was scanned and could only be used once or else guests were turned away. Additionally, all individuals were instructed to stay in their cars during the entirety of the event.
Both high schools’ videos included speeches from the Town of North Hempstead councilmembers, speeches from administrators, speeches from class advisors, as well as remarks from the senior class officers. Since several school employees are retiring from both NHS and SHS, students who formed a bond with the retiree spoke about the legacy of the individual and expressed their appreciation and well wishes.
At the finale of the event, all the families watched the video footage of each student receiving their diploma envelope at a previous drive-by graduation. This gesture was in place of the Tilles Center, as it recognized each student in the senior class.
In light of the difficult academic year seniors have experienced, it is with hope that each graduate still feels special and accomplished at the conclusion of their senior year.
—Leila Sassouni is a contributing writer for Anton Media Group