A gradual change

Senior gown walk takes place with the restrictions of one student at a time

Story by Peyton Sims, Culture editor


The day they have all been waiting for is finally approaching. They’ve imagined themselves walking the stage, grabbing their diploma, trying to spot their family in the vast crowd, then walking off into a new chapter of their life. Unfortunately, the class of 2020’s dream was soon diminished due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Assad Malik

While eligible seniors are still able to graduate, the cap and gown ceremony is being carried out unlike ever before. Every senior was assigned a 20 minute time slot online for their time to walk the stage where they grab a mock diploma; the real deal won’t be sent out until June in order to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19. To follow the social distancing guidelines, only one student can walk in their gown at a time and only six other family members can attend. 

The senior stand under a slide that has their name on it, and the family can go up and take pictures of them, give them hugs and celebrate.

— Carla Dupree, Principal

“The seniors are greeted by a volunteer teacher who walks them to the stage. They go to the front where their family has a chance to take pictures, and then they also go over and have their pictures professionally made by Patterson’s Camera Shop; the district is gifting every senior an 8×10 copy,” Texas High School principal Carla Dupree said. “We’re working with TigerVision, and they’re going to take all of the videos as well as all the other elements of our traditional graduation ceremony and piece it together to air on TigerVision, our school website and our school social media on May 23 at 2:00 p.m. which would’ve been our original graduation time.”

While there’s mixed emotions about the new ceremony setup, students are trying to remain optimistic about the change. After all, they’ll still be able to walk across a stage in their caps and gowns, just not in the way they had originally expected. 

“At first, I was really sad when I heard how we would be graduating. I had waited four years to sit one last time with all of the friends I have made for the past 12 years. I wanted to have my special moment in front of everyone and hear my name called on the speakers,” senior Kaitlyn Rogers said. “I am really happy that the administration found a solution quickly. I think at this point, it’s a matter of having to wait or having a traditional ceremony. When I did walk in front of just my six family members, it was a little sad. None of my friends were there to see, and I felt like I was celebrating alone. At least I get to have closure on this chapter of my life as I start preparing for college instead of having to wait and hold on.”

Parents are also dealing with this change alongside their children. They’ve waited for the special day that their child would finally walk the stage and turn their tassel to the left, but now the 18 year wait has turned into a five minute celebration. 

“I’m happy and sad about everything at the same time,” Renee Sharp, a mother of a senior, said. “We’ve just got to take a breath now because it’s been such an anticipation [compared to] the normal ceremony. I wish the regular graduation could’ve still happened. [My daughter] graduated in less than five minutes, then it was over.” 

Other campuses across Texarkana are making their own decisions for holding graduation type ceremonies that vary from Texas High. Schools such as Hooks ISD and Pleasant Grove both plan to hold their graduation ceremonies in the summertime. 

“We wanted to make sure that all of our seniors have a chance to be an active part of their graduation. A lot of them are going into the military or the workforce so they have to move away,” Dupree said. “Another thing is all of the uncertainty. Other districts are looking at having outside graduations, but with the number of kiddos that we have and with the parking and everything else, would it really be feasible for us to do that [in order for us] to stay within the safety guidelines that our government agencies and health organizations are asking us to do? Our number one priority is for our kids, family and our community to be safe.”

Despite the uncertain times we’re living through, this decision has proved to serve many unlikely benefits. An individual graduation time slot for each senior allows for a more personal experience with their family members even though they’re unable to celebrate with the rest of the graduates in person. 

Mrs. Leon got the phone on the stage so that it was as if the senior’s father was actually on stage with her when she walked.

— Carla Dupree, Principal

“Sometimes, we have an image in our mind of what something is supposed to look like and when it doesn’t look like that, we have to shift our focus and find beauty in what it is,” Dupree said. “One of my favorite memories [so far] was when a kiddo walked across the stage, and after she was done, her mom said, ‘Is there any way that she could walk again because her dad’s in the military, so we want to FaceTime him.’  So, is it our traditional ceremony? No, but this is a good alternative for the time being to provide safety for family time and recognition for our seniors.”