Provo senior Aubrey Dupree has been working toward graduation for years — but she never dreamed she would roll up to get her diploma on a boat.
“I’m glad everything happened how it did,” Dupree said with a grin. “This is way cooler than how I thought graduation would be.”
Dupree was one of hundreds of Bulldog seniors who rolled through the parking lot at Provo High Tuesday afternoon to celebrate their graduation.
Eli Brown, the 2019-20 Bulldog student body president, rolled up in the back of a pickup truck. As he looked around the festivities, he grinned and said it was fitting.
“This is definitely different than my brother’s graduation or other friends’ graduations,” Brown said. “I like it. Having it be different like this fits our class because our class is different.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic made standard graduation ceremonies impossible, high schools were forced to think outside the box.
“It’s all about celebrating our seniors,” Provo principal Boyd McAffee said.
Provo invited seniors to come with their families in their vehicles — many of which were decorated with stickers, banners, balloons, photos and decorative graduation hats.
The graduates first drove through the faculty parking lot, where their teachers applauded and cheered for their accomplishments. Many sat in truck beds, flatbed trailers, convertibles, golf carts, open jeeps, sunroofs — and at least one boat.
They were then directed to drive down one of five lanes in the student parking lot to receive their diplomas and graduation packets from administrators (who were wearing Provo masks as well as surgical gloves).
The families then had the chance to pose for photos with their seniors in front of Provo Bulldog banners, which had to be held in place with bags of ice melt due to the breezy conditions.
Unlike normal graduations, the event was punctuated with horns, bells and confetti poppers going off as “Pomp and Circumstance” played on the loudspeakers in the background.
McAffee said it was something completely different than anything he’d participated in before.
“There is really nothing to compare it to,” McAffee said. “I’ve been feeling weighed down that the seniors didn’t get the traditional experience but our senior student officers didn’t want to simulate the traditions. They didn’t want to walk across an empty stage. They wanted it to be different. It’s strange but exciting.”
He lauded the efforts of assistant principal Jenni Thurston and counselor Lissette Blanchard for putting together all of the details to make the drive-through graduation a reality.
Brown said it’s hard to believe that graduation is finally here.
“It’s a little surreal,” he said. “Everything has gone so fast. We had to make the transition to everything going online and not seeing our friends. I just can’t wait until we can get together with our friends again. I think it’s really nice that we get this closure. It’s not what we expected to be having a graduation parade but it is the closure we wanted.”
But he also believes the Class of 2020 has learned some important lessons as they dealt with the end of their high school careers in such unique circumstances.
“We can get through any challenge,” Brown said. “We are strong enough to overcome anything. It’s an opportunity to learn and get better.”
McAffee said he’s been impressed as he’s seen the Bulldog students adapt to all of the changes that have been required.
“It’s been great to see the kids accepting the challenges and taking the opportunity to blossom,” McAffee said.