By Bill DeFrance

ERPS Superintendent

— For those of us who have been at graduations in recent memory in Eaton Rapids, they have always been at the end of the week of Memorial Day.  This year, we changed it up a little as things were changed up for us due to the health pandemic we faced.

Lots of school districts held graduations “on time” with virtual zoom graduations, a car convoy in  drive thru graduations, television shows, and even videos. Some districts held out that the environment would change. For close to three months, inside and outside school facilities were closed to the public.

We thought we got a window where we could hold outdoor events of up 100 people with social distancing. On June 26th, we had our Greyhound Central Performance Academy graduation in the concourse of the stadium. While some of 22 graduates chose the drive by route, half of the young men and women chose to have a personal graduation in front of their families.

On that Friday night and Saturday morning and afternoon (over 8 hours of graduation) skirting some thunderstorms, we held 16 small ceremonies for groups of graduates. Graduates were on the football field with groups of family and friends in the bleachers. Senior class advisor, Stacy Surato, had it well organized with a ceremony every 30 minutes.

Senior class President, Grace Lehto, was amazing in her enthusiasm and personal stamina.  Over two days, she introduced each graduate, named family members, recounted his or her memories, and talked about their future plans.  It was quite personal given that she had over 160 stories to tell.

Students and staff had constructed an arch of balloons near the school for some great pictures.  It was quite a production. I close this article with the welcome that I gave to groups of graduates on June 27th at the stadium:

On behalf of the Board of Education and Eaton Rapids Public Schools, we want to welcome you to one of the most unique and intimate graduation ceremonies in our history. We are mindful that the world and the everyday look different for all of us as we have dealt with the COVID-19 impact.

What matters most to us is the health and safety of you, our graduates, your families, and the broader community where you grew up. We have seen many of you step up during this crisis. Thank you for your hard work, especially during the last three months.  We wish you continued success on the next leg of your journey which will occur in some rather remarkable and unprecedented times.

Congratulations to our 2020 Eaton Rapids High School graduates!