In an effort to give Cloverdale High School (CHS) and Johanna Echols Hansen High School (JEH) seniors a proper send-off, both the school district and the community are organizing numerous events and gestures of support for local students.

“We assembled a graduation committee and we’ve met for the past three weeks. In our grad committee meetings we’ve explored various ways to honor the class of 2020,” CHS and JEH principal Christopher Meredith said. “(With) the uncertainty of the shelter-in-place order and the fluidity of the situation, any plans to have sort of a (traditional) commencement or graduation ceremony has been put off.”

Rather, Meredith said the district is organizing a video commencement that will include all of the usual graduation traditions — a faculty procession, “Pomp and Circumstance,” valedictorian and salutatorian speeches, a class president speech, presenting graduates with awards and presenting each graduate with a diploma.

To pull this off, the district is having to get inventive. Each graduating student has been assigned the task of creating a 20 to 30 second video that preferably shows them in their cap and gown. When it comes to specifics, Meredith said that students are being given some level of flexibility. For example, the story board sample given to students for the clip suggests that the video include them throwing their cap up in the air.

Once submitted, the various video clips will be collected and spliced into a virtual commencement ceremony (Cloverdale native Nick Pavelka will be working with the district to create the video).

For students who don’t submit a video, Meredith said that their name will be shown on the screen.

“We haven’t excluded the idea that we could come together and celebrate either via a traditional commencement ceremony or something else unique in person,” he said. “In the meantime, we’re working on a graduation video production that we think is going to be very cool.”

Students were assigned their video clip assignments last week and “are excited about it,” Meredith noted.

“We want to do a video unveiling — that will be to be determined — we’re going to try and think of some different creative approaches,” he said.

When asked if the school plans to think of creative ways to approach other senior traditions like prom, awards nights or other senior-specific celebrations, Meredith said that they haven’t decided on any specifics, but that the graduation committee has entertained ideas for how to celebrate seniors in that way and are “keeping options open if the shelter-in-place is lifted.”

“We’re hopeful and we have some alternative ideas to honor the graduates that are all pending the shelter in place order,” he said.

In the community as a whole, Cloverdalians have been making their own senior celebrations happen. Namely, helping fund both senior signs where every graduate will be given a sign to put in their front yard and a series of banners each depicting the face of a graduate that will be hung along the fence at the Cloverdale Citrus Fairgrounds.

In the span of three days, the community raised over $5,500, with $4,500 of it through a Facebook donation page to help fund both projects, surpassing the set fundraising goal of $4,000.

“This fundraising effort is a community backed independent effort. We listened to what our community members were asking for and it is with great pleasure (I) announce that our plan to make it happen is in motion,” said CHS parent Christina Lepe Duarte in the initial fundraising message.

Lepe Duarte, who also sits on the CHS graduation committee, is one of the community members spearheading the fundraising project, which hopes to celebrate the roughly 90 graduates from CHS and JEH.

The money raised will go toward the personalized photo banners, lawn signs and the materials needed to hang up the banners.

In an interview with the Reveille, Lepe Duarte wanted to specifically thank the Citrus Fairgrounds for allowing the banners to be hung on its fence, as well as the Cloverdale Lions Club, which donated over $900 to help completely fund the student lawn signs.

Students will be picking up their caps and gowns, as well as their senior signs, from CHS after press time on Wednesday, April 29.

“I think it’s a testament to our community, I want to make sure we say thank you to everybody that helped with that effort,” Meredith said, talking about the community fundraising to help honor the graduates. “I want to make sure we get a thanks out to the graduation committee, the people who have volunteered to participate in that group, as well as the students and staff that are working to put this together.”

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