It wasn’t the celebration they thought they would have, but it was a celebration nonetheless.
More than 1,300 seniors graduated from Rochester high schools on Friday. In ceremonies designed for safety in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, the students and their families drove through a line before stopping in front of the school entrances to accept their diplomas.
“I feel great,” John Marshall graduate Katherine Schiraldi said. “I’m excited for the next step.”
John Marshall High School literally rolled out the red carpet for its graduates. The carpet led to the podium where they could pick up their diplomas as an announcer called their names.
A steady stream of vehicles stretched down 14th Street Northwest, many decked out with window paint and balloons.
Staff and teachers lined the sidewalks and lawns, cheering the students on. Some students held up video cameras as they were driven through the line to capture the moment.
At Century High School, four graduating friends drove through together. The day was especially meaningful for one of them, Sabrin Abukar whose family originally came from Kenya.
“My English was not that perfect, and I thought. ‘I’m not going to make it,’” Abukar said. “My mom’s dream was for me to graduate from high school. I'm just so happy to make my mom proud.”
Mayo High School graduate Angiee Deanda, whose parents originally came from Mexico, had a similar story to tell.
As she walked down the sidewalk to get her diploma, a loved one stood up through the sunroof in the car, recording a cellphone video in each hand. The driver extended a large Mexican flag out his door window.
“I did this for them because they came here to try to give me a better life,” she said. “And they did it.”
Regardless of the high school, families took the moment they were given and made the best of it. One family rolled through in an open-topped Jeep. Another family was in a convertible. Yet another family drove through the line in a limousine.
Even though Lourdes High School also held graduation in a drive-up format, their students had the longest walk, which they made around the school's large courtyard.
"I didn't think we'd be able to come back, but the teachers gave us faith that we would be able to have a graduation – that they'd make it possible for us," Lourdes graduate Emma Schmitz said. "It's still a blessing to be able to graduate."