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Caribou High School holds socially distanced graduation ceremony

CARIBOU, Maine — Cars packed the Caribou High School parking lot as 93 seniors in the Class of 2020 held a socially distanced, outdoor graduation ceremony in the school’s parking lot on Sunday. 

The graduation came just two days after the sudden passing of Caribou High School Junior Kacey Haney, who was pronounced dead after a June 5 car accident. To honor her memory, students all wore white ribbons.

Cars adorned with balloons and encouraging messages lined the Caribou High School parking lot on June 7 as the class of 2020 held a socially distanced graduation ceremony. Chris Bouchard | Aroostook Republican

“The class’s thoughts and prayers go out to the Haney family, and they wish to send their condolences with them,” Caribou High School Principal Travis Barnes said. 

Barnes explained that the planning of the ceremony was done not by teachers or staff at the school, but by a group of seniors.

“As we try to work through the pandemic, these students were committed to a process that both celebrated their successes and honored the wishes of their class, said Barnes.”

Before diplomas were given to the class, Barnes recognized all 11 students who organized the ceremony: Emma Stewart, Danielle Cyr, Alya Theriault, Shelby Barnes, Victoria Leavitt, Jacob Doebener, Makayla Drew, Nathan Pitre, Cheyenne Cormier, Abigail Wimmer and Madison Stratton.

“As the principal of Caribou High School, I couldn’t be any more proud of these students, and the dedication they put forward in planning this event,” he said. “They stepped forward to make graduation a meaningful and memorable experience for all, and I believe they’ve done that today.”

Barnes delivered a final thank you to all of the staff of RSU 39 (Caribou and Stockholm school district) for making the outdoor ceremony possible before Superintendent Tim Doak addressed all in attendance.

“We are in extraordinary times with the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will take extraordinary efforts to pull us out into a better world,” Doak said. “We are going to lean on these graduates to be the leaders who will reinvent the world we live in. It’s a world that will have new ways of traveling in elevators, new ways of opening doors, of serving food in restaurants, and new ways of socializing with groups of people.”

“You are the leaders,” he told the class just before pronouncing them as Caribou High School graduates, “and you will leave Caribou High School with a bright future in these extraordinary times.”

Applause could be heard from people sitting in their cars, along with a chorus of horns honking to celebrate the class.

Caribou High School Principal Travis Barnes, left, and RSU 39 Superintendent Tim Doak stand on an outdoor stage during Caribou High School’s 2020 graduation ceremony on June 7. Courtesy of RSU 39

This year, in addition to calling out students’ names and handing out diplomas, Doak and other school officials read off details about each student’s experience in the high school, discussing the extracurricular activities the student was involved in, and describing the student’s goals, be it attending college, entering the workforce or enlisting in the military.

Parents drove into the school parking lot in a motorcade accompanied by local police and fire and ambulance vehicles. Vehicles were adorned with balloons, messages written on the windows, and Doak said he saw one car with a giant graduation cap mounted to the hood. 

Altogether, Doak said between 100 and 150 were in attendance. 

Cars drove up to the outdoor stage in groups of 10, during which students were able to exit the vehicles, take their diplomas and pose for photos. Vehicles would then do a snaking loop around the building to the tech area. All staff wore maroon masks adorned with the school’s Viking logo. 

Doak on Monday said it was “an outstanding graduation ceremony,” and that it would not have been possible without Barnes’ leadership and the innovation of the senior class.

“It was a true celebration of the graduating class,” he said. “I was impressed with the connection with the community by having the fire trucks, ambulance and police escort, and was very pleased to see the direct connection of parents being able to drive up with their child and take pictures.”

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