As school districts and communities scramble to find ways to honor their high school seniors, one school in the metro is bringing the ceremony to individual students directly.
The seniors have lost sports, prom, and other rights of passage previous years had, but Bloomington Jefferson is trying to salvage graduation. More than 100 students, around a quarter of the senior class, signed up for a short, in-person ceremony with principal Jaysen Anderson within the first 24 hours. When he sent the email he was expecting around 40 or 50, but is still planning to wear his cap and gown and drive to each house to give each student who signed up their diploma in person.
“It was so palpable the importance,” Anderson said. “We could easily say ‘Hey it’s a global thing what are we supposed to do? They’re going to have to learn that things are hard sometimes.’ We can do it and we are doing it. It’s the right thing to do.”
The ceremony will last no more than 10 minutes with some words from him and the students if they want, maybe some pictures.
Anderson’s aiming to start the weekend of June 6 with two weeks plotted out, knocking out ceremonies in the evenings and weekends. His secretary will help him map out families living in close proximity that picked a similar time. In his fourth year at Jefferson, Anderson entered the high school the same year as these seniors. He plans to honor students as far as Burnsville and Shakopee. It speaks to the community of Jefferson.
“Families have really rallied, teachers have really rallied,” Anderson said. “Seniors, student leaders have really rallied so it’s been a strong community effort.”
It hasn’t been all bad for Megan Narveson, a member of the senior class. She’s training for her future track career at Minnesota State-Mankato (she got to meet her teammates over Zoom), spending time with her younger brother, Sam, and her parents. She’s looking forward to Anderson’s “mini ceremony.”
“I was really not excited by the thought of doing (graduation) over the internet, but when we got this email from Principal Anderson, it was really cool that he was making an effort to make this special for all of us,” she said.
Her dad, Mark Narveson, says it’s been tough to make this time special for Megan, but there have been positives to having the family together during this time including morning bike rides and evening walks, seeing Megan and Sam grow even closer, talking about her future dreams and reminiscing about high school.
“There are some things that even though this time is difficult in a lot of respects, looking back in a year or two or three or 10, there are going to be some things that we look back on and cherish forever,” he said.
Anderson is still fleshing out ideas and working out the logistics, already rejecting a mini stage and podium because he’d have to bring a different vehicle (but he did mention he might steal this reporter’s idea of playing Pomp and Circumstance on a mini speaker). He doesn’t want to take credit for what could be a daunting undertaking because everyone in education is hurting for seniors and doing their best to do right by them.
“Principals and teachers in the metro and the country are, I really do believe, doing their best. We’re all doing different things.”
Anderson said he’s still holding out hope for an outdoor, physically-distanced graduation on the football field in July, but students will have this personal recognition.
“There’s no harm in celebrating twice,” Anderson said. “If we for some reason can’t do July, my thinking is at least we had this.
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