SULLIVAN — In an ongoing pandemic that has forced many students to remain distanced from their peers, this year’s 46 graduates of Sumner Memorial High School have found a way to attend graduation — the revered rite of passage that recognizes the hard work of students and their families — together.
On Thursday, June 10, the school’s graduation ceremony will take place in its Clint Ritchie Gymnasium in two sessions, one at 6 p.m. and one at 7:30, with all graduates attending and marching into both sessions together. Additionally, the junior class has formed plans for a modified prom on May 22.
Each graduate will be allowed to have eight guests attend the ceremony in person during the session in which that graduate receives a diploma. Twenty-three graduates will receive their diplomas in the first session, with another 23 receiving theirs in the second session.
Both sessions will be livestreamed on Facebook.
The plan, in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was developed by the Sumner community following a series of online forums led by Sumner Principal Ty Thurlow.
“The decision to have the students all together was really a culmination of the two graduation forum meetings,” Thurlow said, noting the feedback from those involved was that “they would like to see students together if possible.”
Class Night, the June 7 ceremony where students receive scholarships and awards, will also have all graduates attending in person. Only graduates will be attending in person, with the event livestreamed on Facebook.
This event will also take place in the school’s gym and includes student speakers.
Thurlow reported that local businesses and members of the Sumner community contribute nearly $250,000 in scholarships and grants each year.
The school’s Honors Banquet will be held May 25 at 6 p.m. in the gym. The banquet will recognize 17 graduates (with two guests each) who achieved status in the school’s Latin honor system.
In other event planning, Thurlow said the junior class is working on plans for a modified prom to be held outdoors on May 22. The event will be capped at 100 students in the junior and senior classes, held in the courtyard area outside the building’s main office.
He said the space would be complete with strings of lights, canopies and refreshments. Students will have access to the building to use the restroom.
Typically, prom is held for the junior class at Sumner, but with last year’s junior class missing out on the opportunity, this year’s class decided to plan something for the now-seniors.
Thurlow highlighted “the integrity [the juniors] showed,” for wanting to do something for the school’s graduating class.
There will be a DJ, Thurlow said, but “there will be absolutely no slow dances,” to help curb temptation for students to break social distancing guidelines.
Thurlow asked students if they were ready to attend such a different event than years’ past.
He said that they replied, “We just want an opportunity to come together.”