AVON, May 16, 2020 – It has been painfully obvious over the past eight weeks the changes that the contagious COVID-19 coronavirus has inflicted in Avon, in the state of Connecticut, in the United States and across the world.
Many of the norms and cultural traditions that we have used for marriages, deaths have changed as we strive to remain healthy and avoid a COVID-19 infection – an infection that has no cure at this time. We worship alone with our families and online with our neighbors.
Graduation is one of those traditions on hold until we can safely gather together.
On a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon, soon-to-be-graduates in Avon got an opportunity to come together – not too close – and hear the cheers of their neighbors in a parade around the neighborhoods near Avon High.
Dozens of cars with seniors from Avon High drove slowly through neighborhoods near the high school led by the Avon Police Department with vehicles from the fire department mixed in throughout the parade.
“The whole aim was to give them the opportunity to shine, to be recognized and acknowledge each other. Some haven’t seen each other since school was postponed,” said Carolyn Marshall, a member of the Project Graduation team that organized the event.
The idea for the parade came from Wanda Dawiczyk, the chair of the Project Graduation committee. She was part of a small parade for the birthday of a middle school student in her neighborhood.
The Town Council supported the idea and the school – Avon High principal Michael Renkawicz and school superintendent Bridget Heston Carnemolla — were on board with the idea, too.
“We were looking for something to cheer up the kids and even their families,” Dawiczyk said. “The parade seemed the only thing we could do with social distancing.”
The event was open to seniors at Avon High along with Avon residents who are graduating from college or other area high schools such as Northwest Catholic in West Hartford.
“It is really special I am really thankful that Mr. Renkawitz and the staff put something together like this in light of this situation,” said Maeve Lynch, a senior at Avon High. “We are making the most of what we have. It is nice to know we are still being celebrated even though we can’t be in school with each other.”
“It is a good chance for our class to get together for one last time,” Avon High’s Abby St. Onge said. “We would have had a lot of senior activities during this month so it is a good chance to still be able to do something together.”
Added Sarah Jacobs, “We have been trying to text and communicate. It’s nice to see my classmate’s faces – at least from distance
There were plenty of smiles from everyone in Saturday in the parking lot at the high school as students lined up for the parade and along the parade route as residents, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends and family cheered on the soon-to-be graduates.
“This means the world to me and the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and our (Project Graduation) committee,” Dawiczyk said. “To see the kids smile again and give them that release means the world to us.”
Project Graduation, a committee that is part of Avon High’s PTO, picked up the parade expenses, primarily the cost of the parade permit. Police and Fire Department costs were donated to the event.
Avon High’s graduation is scheduled for June 17 at the Farmington Polo Grounds at 5 p.m., but the fate of the Project Graduation event — the substance-free party after the graduation ceremony — remains undetermined at this time.