AUSTIN, Texas - Seniors in the Austin area are wrapping up their last year of high school a little differently because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, high schools are still finding ways to honor them and give them a heartfelt goodbye.
“Even though they’re in their car, and even though we're 6 feet away and we’re wearing masks, we can at least wave to them and that means more,” said Cathy Cluck, an AP History teacher at Westlake High School.
The 2020 graduating class at Westlake High never thought they’d be celebrating the end of the school year with a parade of decorated vehicles.
“I’m not happy about it, but it is very interesting and I think it will be fun to talk about later once it’s all over,” said Wyatt Ingle, one of Westlake High's more than 705 graduating seniors.
Like seniors all over the country, graduates at Westlake High had their final high school year cut short. They haven’t seen their teachers or classmates in months, except online. That made the farewell parade through campus moment so much more meaningful.
“It had some challenges for sure it was hard to say goodbye so soon it’s hard to go to school one day and then just never come back,” said Mina Mashhoon, another Westlake High graduate.
“It’s really nice to say goodbye to them, especially this year, just because it’s our last year. And I’ve met some really good teachers this year, so I’m glad to say goodbye to them now,” said Drew Willoughby, who also just finished his senior year at Westlake High.
“It’s not only closure for the kids, it’s somewhat closer for us as well, because we spent a year getting to know them and to leave on this kind of note is hard,” said chemistry teacher Denise DeMartino.
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Seniors at Pflugerville High School also got to see their teachers again during a graduation parade.
“We’re different than all the other classes that have come before and different is always good I think,” said Mauricio Rodriguez, a graduating senior at Pflugerville High.
Rodriguez’s graduating class will have an opportunity for an in-person ceremony on June 1, but Westlake High is a different story.
On Thursday night the school's 50th graduation ceremony was held virtually. Although, some seniors said that’s not necessarily such a bad thing.
“It’s special and it’s different and we’re gonna look back on this in 10, 20, 30 years and be like, ‘I remember every second of my graduation because it was just insane and one of a kind,’” said Jude Farrell, student body president of Westlake High’s 2020 graduating class.
“Honestly, I kind of prefer it. I don’t know if that’s controversial, but I kind of like it,” Mashhoon said.
As they move on to the next chapter of their adult lives, Westlake High School Principal Steve Ramsey said this isn’t their final goodbye. He’s planning to invite seniors back to the school for a farewell hug or handshake as soon as it’s safe to do so.
“We just wanna be together one more time,” Ramsey said.
Westlake High School is hoping to hold an in-person graduation ceremony later this summer.
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