Whether they are standing in front of the classroom, sitting at the computer or shouting from the sidewalk, the Georgetown High School faculty knows how to encourage their students. In addition to providing electronic communication and developing online lessons, GHS instructors and staff from every department created graphics, crafted noisemakers and smeared on their sunscreen to honor their Senior Class of 2020 “in person” on Wednesday, April 29 and Monday, May 11.
Grateful for the administrative team who said yes to her “fun and crazy idea,” Guidance Counselor Kim Finley coordinated the drive-by event to honor the school’s prospective graduates as they collected their invitations and senior supplies. “I hope the students enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed doing it for them,” said Finley. “What a great day for us as well as our seniors, after weeks of being inside!”
“We had them situated in a format where they’re coming through alphabetically with assigned times to promote social distancing,” said Principal Craig Stone, who also provided lunch, water and soft drinks for the cheering group on April 29. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, a take-out dinner was available on May 11 for those attending.
The Coronavirus-conscious faculty, all dressed in Bulldog blue and silver, spaced themselves outside the gymnasium to cheer on the young adults they served during their short time in school together. From the safety of their vehicles, seniors checked in with Assistant Principal Alvin Walker at the gate who advised drivers and passengers to “Lower your windows and get ready for a treat!” Slowly and sometimes tearfully, the participants rolled past a familiar crowd of their educational fans who were waving signs and ringing cowbells between cheers of “Congratulations Seniors 2020!” and “God bless you!”
Mathematics teacher Jean Pieterse, who carried a sign that read “Raise the Ruff, Class of 2020” attended both days of celebration, designating May 11 as an opportunity to model her new surgical mask and collect uniforms from her HighSteppers dance team. “It’s a beautiful day, nice and breezy--all of us are so happy to be here,” said the dance team sponsor. “I think we’ve missed each other a lot and we want to recognize our seniors. We just want to wish them well and let them know how much they mean to us.”
English teacher Virginia Duke shared the contagious enthusiasm. “I just hope this is the beginning of us getting all back together and being again with our students. We’ve missed each other and we’ve missed them,” she noted. Colleague Michele Prudhomme, who teaches two electives and two different levels of English was also glad to be present and to be able to support the students. “We miss them,” said the GHS alumna. “This is another way to stay in touch with them during this time.”
Pruhomme’s department chair and former English teacher agreed. “I love it. It’s so much fun seeing the kids come and get their supplies,” said Sharon Gordon, who also serves as a senior advisor. “We haven’t seen them in so long, so it’s good to make a connection again.”
Career Center secretary Earnestine Moultrie took time away from e-learning with her two grandkids to show off her hand-made, tinsel- framed poster at the front of the line. “During this time of COVID-19 isolation, I am enjoying my day out here with the seniors,” she said, interrupted by the clamor that routinely accompanied their approach.
Some students stopped their cars and pickups long enough to be interviewed from a distance. Athlete Stephon Reeves said he was proud of his school and his accomplishments and that he hopes to continue wrestling. “I’m going to culinary school in North Carolina at Johnson and Wales,” he declared, rousing more cheers from his admiring teachers.
“I really enjoyed it,” said HGTC-bound Charlotte Williams who is a member of both the GHS Prayer Group and the Young Authors Club. “It was nice to be able to see the teachers and to know that we seniors have their support.”
“This is great! I think it’s a great thing that the teachers came out for us today,” said Bulldog Nick Blakely. “I just wished we would actually have been able to finish out our last year,” he added. Fellow football player Saylor Sheffield echoed a similar mix of gratitude and regrets. “This is one senior class that won’t be forgotten,” he said thoughtfully from behind the wheel of his idling truck.
Scholar Josh Baker, who is known for his stellar on-stage performances in the school’s theatrical productions, told how humbling it was that his teachers took time to cheer on their future graduates. “It’s a fitting end to our high school years,” he summed up. “Most important, though, is what God has in store for us.”
Outdoor graduation ceremonies are scheduled for all Georgetown County High Schools at the beginning of June. Exact times and guidelines can be found at www.gcsd.k12.sc.us