Ann Arbor high school seniors celebrate graduation with virtual ceremonies, in-car processions

Graduates were greeted by faculty and staff at Community High's in-car procession on June 12, 2020. (Ann Arbor Public Schools)

ANN ARBOR – It may not have been the graduation ceremony they envisioned, but it certainly is one they will never forget.

Just over 1,300 Ann Arbor Public Schools seniors marked graduation this week virtually and in drive-by processions. Community High, Pathways to Success, Skyline, Huron and Pioneer students participated in socially distanced processions in decked out cars on their respective campuses, while being greeted by school faculty and staff.

AAPS captured the unprecedented events and commencement ceremonies on video for the students, families and community.

Community High graduates wave from their cars on June 12, 2020. (Ann Arbor Public Schools)

“During this time, we have learned, more than ever, that our classrooms and schools are so much more than a physical building; each of us serves a key and critical role in ensuring the AAPS is about caring and connections, learning together through challenges, compassion and outreach,” wrote AAPS Superintendent Jeanice Kerr Swift in a letter this week.

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Here’s a recap of graduations this past week:

Community High School

Community High School celebrated its 140 graduates on June 12. Its in-car procession in the heart of its campus in Kerrytown served as a welcome back for students, families and teachers. The procession lasted for over 90 minutes.

While the commencement ceremony was virtual, each student was able to make brief remarks, holding true to Community tradition.

“Because of the skills I’ve developed during my three and 2/3 of a year at Community High School I am learning to be ok with uncertainty,” remarked senior Mazey Perry.

For more Community High graduation highlights, click here.

Pathways to Success

Pathways to Success celebrated its 40 graduates on June 15.

The global protests surrounding recent police killings of African Americans was a recurring theme throughout the ceremony.

Pathways Dean Shaenu Micou reminded the outgoing seniors that they have a responsibility as the next leaders of society.

“Yes, you are next, you are the next leaders of our community and society that are going to love and support the people long before a pandemic takes off,” Micou told the graduates. “You are the next leaders of our community and society that are going to love and support the people long before our cities explode. Long before we are so divided as a nation that there’s nothing left to do but fall.”

During the in-car procession, graduates received their diploma cover and other items from faculty.

A member of faculty hands a goodie bag to a graduating senior at Pathways to Success on June 15, 2020. (Ann Arbor Public Schools)

Over $27,000 in STRIVE Scholarships from the Ann Arbor Rotary Club were awarded to some of the outgoing seniors.

For more Pathways to Success graduation highlights, click here.

Skyline High School

Skyline High School celebrated its 367 graduates on June 16.

The Eagles also held an in-car procession where they received their diplomas and goodie bags from faculty members. During the commencement ceremony, students virtually “marched” in with photos and baby pictures. Musical performances and speeches followed, and the students names were read to receive their diplomas according to their Small Learning Communities: Academic Innovation, Diversity, Equality and Integrity.

Sixty-eight percent of Skyline’s outgoing senior class graduated with honors with a GPA of 3.2 or higher.

Skyline Principal Cory McElmeel praised the resilience of the graduating class having spent their final months of high school amid a global pandemic.

“Seniors, you will rise out of the ashes of the COVID-19 pandemic and soar,” he said. “You are the ultimate symbol of strength and renewal by stepping up where others can’t and won’t. You will turn these experiences that threaten to scar the human soul into our greatest rebirth. You will shape our new tomorrow.”

Skyline also put together this tassel turn and hat toss video of its class of 2020.

For more Skyline High School graduation highlights, click here.

Huron High School

Huron High School celebrated its 388 graduates on June 17.

The River Rats accepted their diplomas through the windows of their cars during a celebratory two-hour procession.

Huron’s class of 2020 boasted eight Presidential Scholar candidates and three semifinalists and 14 National Merit semifinalists and four finalists. Sixty-seven students graduated with a 3.9 GPA or above.

Huron Principal Janet Schwamb commended the strength of the Class of 2020 for enduring a global pandemic in their final months of school in a pre-recorded message.

Principal Janet Schwamb waves to a senior about to be announced before picking up his diploma outside Huron High School on June 17, 2020. (Ann Arbor Public Schools)

“Typically, high school principals often share words of wisdom to graduating seniors during commencement ceremonies,” said Schwamb.

“You may have noted that I said typically. Since March 2020, nothing has been typical as we found ourselves in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic. When we were last in school on March 13th and left Huron, little did we imagine that would be the last time you would be together with your peers, the class of 2020.”

For more Huron High School graduation highlights, click here.

Pioneer High School

Pioneer High School celebrated its 447 graduates on June 18.

An in-car procession took place earlier in the day ahead of the evening commencement ceremony. During the graduation video, seniors of AAPS’ largest graduating class had their names announced alongside their school pictures.

In tribute to the Class of 2020, the Pioneer Theatre Guild recorded a song from their canceled spring production Les Miserables from their homes. Senior Dana Steiner coordinated the piece and edited the complex video.

“I am a senior at Pioneer and this would have been my last musical with my younger brother and my PTG family,” she said in a statement in May. “We decided to dedicate this video to the PTG Class of 2020 seniors.”

Congratulations, grads!

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.