Schools make senior year a memorable experience; graduation delayed for many

Shane Schemmel
Iowa City Regina High School theology teacher Shelly Conlon wears a protective face mask as she stands next to Crownie the Regina mascot. Teachers lined up in vehicles in the background as they prepared to deliver yard signs, cookies and rosaries to the high school’s seniors.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Davenport have been thinking outside the box to provide a memorable experience for the Class of 2020. The traditional in-person graduation ceremonies won’t happen this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. The schools shared these highlights of their creative responses:

Notre Dame — Burlington

Signs were put up in all the senior students’ yards congratulating them for their accomplishments this year, said Principal Bill Maupin. Originally graduation was scheduled for this Sunday, May 24. Parents voted to hold off until July to have a more traditional graduation if possible. “We will wait to see what the state will allow, but we would like to have it on our soccer field.”


Prince of Peace — Clinton

Graduation is a process, not a day, said Karen Witt, the school’s development director. This final week of classes, May 18-22, is dress-up week for seniors. Theme days are planned and students are encouraged to submit photos. Banners featuring photos of each senior will be displayed from street lights in downtown Clinton. Students are invited to stand beneath the banners May 22 while families and friends drive past to drop off cards. The May 24 graduation ceremony has been rescheduled to July 5. Witt said the school will follow state and diocesan guidelines regarding the ceremony’s location. The graduating class has 10 seniors. One is an international student who has returned home. With the small class size, “We have more options with social distancing than other schools,” Witt said.

Assumption — Davenport

The school’s “road to graduation” included a surprise package delivery to seniors at their homes with instructions about when to open the package and what to take out, said Principal Bridget Murphy. Teachers delivered the Hy-Vee grocery sack of items to seniors. A note on the sack read: “Assumption Class of 2020. Please take this end-of-year care package as a sign of how much we love you. Though this road to the finish line is going to be unique, we assure you that we won’t be satisfied unless you guys go out with a bang! You have worked hard, and your presence has blessed our school in countless ways.”

Murphy said the bag’s contents pertain to events that remain in the school year. Seniors were to remove items when instructed. The first day, they removed their cap and gown to hang up in preparation for graduation. They also took out a red, Vision 2020 “One in the Spirit” T-shirt. Students were to wait for a school email for instructions about what to take out of the bag next.

Families were encouraged to participate in a virtual senior breakfast and to send a photo for a slideshow. A senior rosary was offered online May 15. The seniors prayed with rosaries contained in their bags and made (in Assumption colors) by Sister Anthony Worrell, OSF, and blessed by Father Scott Foley.

An online honors and awards ceremony was scheduled May 22 and the online baccalaureate ceremony May 24 at 3 p.m. Weather permitting, a graduation procession and May crowning will take place in the high school parking lots May 24. Rain date is May 25. Students dressed in cap and gown are to arrive at their scheduled time to receive their diplomas. The event is for immediate family only. Everyone except the graduate must remain in their vehicles. The ceremony also will be recorded.

Holy Trinity — Fort Madison

HTC has been celebrating each member of the senior class on social media with a senior spotlight on Facebook and Instagram, said Brenda Graham, marketing and admissions director/international student coordinator.
The high school teachers put together gift bags of goodies and delivered them to each senior. The city of Fort Madison planned a car parade for May 23 to honor Holy Trinity and Fort Madison Community School District seniors. Shottenkirk car dealership provided personalized yard signs for each graduating senior, said Principal Jason Woodley. The seniors were also to be featured on a tri-state graduation special on KHQA, Quincy, Illinois.

All graduating seniors are invited to serve as grand marshals in the Fourth of July parade this year.

A baccalaureate Mass is set for Aug. 2 at 8:30 a.m. at St. Mary Church in West Point and graduation at 2 p.m. that day, following state and diocesan guidelines at that time. Graduation was originally scheduled for May 24.

Regina — Iowa City

A caravan of about 20 teachers drove to each high school senior’s home to drop off cookies, a rosary and place a sign in the yard. On May 20, the school’s sports field lights were to be lit up to mark the seniors’ last day of school. “We are working on a digital awards assembly,” said Principal Glenn Plummer. Graduation ceremonies had been scheduled for May 24. “We have not come up with a new date or plan for graduation. We are waiting to see what comes from the state and diocese. All indications are pointing to July or early August. … We hope for an in-person ceremony.”

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