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'I'll remember it for the rest of my life,' grad says of drive-thru ceremony

Port Coquitlam highschool's outdoor graduation had all the bells and whistles of a traditional ceremony — and even a few tears — as students walked a red carpet to say good bye to teachers, principal while parents snapped pics

In what was dubbed as the most “unique” and special grad ever, the Terry Fox Class of 2020 walked across a red carpet and received congratulations, gift bags and cheers from friends, neighbours and family Wednesday.

On a day when the school was closed for a mid-week deep cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19, nearly 95% of Fox’s 400 Grade 12 students participated in a drive-thru grad celebration that closely followed physical distancing rules.

“It’s our most memorable grad ever, and despite some challenges, parents and students got to take part,” said principal David Starr, who wore full grad regalia for the event.

As a loose gathering of watchers stood on the sidelines, cars filed through in order of the graduates’ last names.

Students dressed in gowns and caps stepped out of each vehicle upon hearing their name announced, walking across a red carpet to pick up swag bags and a diploma while their accomplishments and final statement were read out over a loudspeaker.

“This is full circle for me,” said Joanne Page, who used to be a before and after school worker at Leigh elementary and came to see off many of her former charges.

Parents who spoke to the Tri-City News said they were glad to have a chance to witness — and photograph — their child graduating even though they had to wait in their car.

Many of the students who completed the modified ceremony told the Tri-City News that the event was better than they expected.

Some even had tears in their eyes as they said their final goodbyes to their favourite teachers.

“It’s exciting,” said Martin Mamus, a Fox graduate whose brother was chauffeuring the family car and taking photos.

Students wore dresses, shirts and ties and polished shoes under their gowns, and stood beside a statue of home town hero Terry Fox to get their photo taken.

“It’s better than I thought,” said Lyn Jung as cars drove by with graduation mementoes such as Class of 2020 signs dangling from car mirrors.

“It was kind of more emotional than I thought it would be,” said Sequoia Kokotylo.

For Cindy Vanderley, who turned out to see her best friend’s daughter graduate, the Fox event was well organized and perhaps better than sitting through a four-hour ceremony at the Orpheum Theatre.

Some students seemed kind of dazed as they concluded the brief ceremony and had to walk quickly or even run to catch up to the car they came in — some dropping their Fox graduation memorabilia in their haste.

Likely it was Jared Karunaharan who summed up the thoughts of many students when he said: “I kind of liked it, it’s a beautiful day and I think I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”

Fox isn’t the only School District 43 school holding special commemorative events, Dr. Charles Best in Coquitlam, Riverside in Port Coquitlam and Heritage Woods in Port Moody were among the public schools organizing special grads while B.C. Christian Academy held its drive-thru grad last Saturday. Many elementary and middle schools held school leaving ceremonies as well.

SD43 students are among thousands across B.C. who are having modified graduation ceremonies because of the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the province to declare this week “Grad 2020 Week” and urging locals to cheer on grads on Saturday, June 20, at 8:20 p.m. (20:20 military time).

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