A line of cars formed near the Pleasant Grove High School tennis courts on Wednesday as seniors and parents picked up their 2020 graduation packets.
It was a short route — just around the parking lot — but it was a poignant trip for Rochelle Curtis, who was accompanied by her senior daughter, Christina.
“I feel pretty emotional driving through,” Rochelle Curtis said, tears flowing freely. “At first we had a lot of hope that she’d be going back to school in just a couple of weeks. Then we thought maybe May 1. We really hoped she would be able to have some sort of a normal end of the year. When it was announced they wouldn’t go back to school anymore, that’s when it really hit.”
On Wednesday, the seniors were able to pick up pre-ordered caps and gowns, along with honor cords and graduation signs to display in their front yards. A graduation walk will take place the final four days of school (May 21, 22, 26 and 27) for graduates and their immediate family, observing proper social distancing guidelines. On the evening of May 28, a graduation video will be streamed online. Following the video the “G” between Grove Creek Canyon and Battle Creek Canyon will be lit, accompanied by fireworks obtained through donations to the Alpine School District.
Pleasant Grove principal Steve Stewart released graduation plans earlier this week in a letter to the school’s 650 seniors.
“Once we had talked as principals about some of the ideas we had, each school was allowed to come up with what we felt was best for our community,” Stewart said. “We wanted to do the graduation walk in our auditorium with ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ playing and give them a chance to get their picture taken in front of the block ‘PG.’
“For me it was very scary to wonder if what we’re going to do is going to be enough. We’re still tweaking the plans, but the feedback we’ve gotten from the Pleasant Grove community has been wonderful and positive.”
Stewart said the logistics and the uncertainty of the future made planning graduation especially difficult.
“You’re sitting in an empty school and just wondering what’s happening,” he said. “You wonder what people are thinking and what they need, and what we can provide, and if it will all come together.”
Pleasant Grove senior class president Francisco Calderon and vice president Emily Trewartha sat in camp chairs in the parking lot, holding up signs and greeting parents and students as they picked up their graduation packets.
“I don’t even remember what my last day of school was like,” Calderon said. “I don’t remember what I was doing that day or who I was talking to. It’s sad that I don’t remember my last day. But I think the school has done well with the situation it’s been given. It really shows they do care about us and they miss us a lot.”
Calderon said he will attend Southern Utah University in the fall and is ready for the next stage of his life.
“It’s kind of like, ‘What’s left to stay for at this point?’” he said. “You love high school but this is such a weird situation we’re in now that everything is almost done. It’s hard because the last month of your senior year is when all the fun stuff happens, like Lagoon Day. It’s like all the hard work with no payoff at the end.”
Trewartha said she was glad she still was able to participate in Pleasant Grove’s “Save Ferris” activities in late December, which is a fundraising effort ending with a dance that brings in students from other schools and as far away as St. George.
“Our senior year has been really good,” she said. “We’ve already made a lot of memories and I’m grateful for them. It’s been hard, realizing I’m not going to get to go to prom. I’m really sad about prom. But everyone is going through this and everyone is losing something.”
Trewartha said she was happy to be able to greet her fellow seniors on Wednesday.
“This will be good closure for me,” she said. “There are a lot of people I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, so it’s good to be able to say goodbye to them.”
Sitting in an SUV with her mother after collecting her graduation packet, Christina Curtis couldn’t help but still be disappointed that her senior year is ending under the restrictions of the COVID-19 virus.
“I’m trying to have a positive attitude and be happy that at least something is happening,” she said. “The biggest thing I cared about was seeing all my friends at graduation. But it’s nice that it’s not unknown anymore, even though it’s not what I was hoping for.”