ROUND ROCK, Texas - Students have been through a lot during the 2020-2021 school year, and two local high school seniors want to ensure they still have a memorable high school graduation.
"I hear a lot of feedback from students and this was always a thing that was coming to me," said Westwood High School senior Hart Black.
As the executive president for students at Westwood, Black usually helps put on big events like the homecoming parade. This year, he’s been a sounding board for students that feel they are missing out on events like homecoming and graduation.
He talked with one of his best friends, Alayna Pelayo, and they came up with the idea for a petition.
"I wanted to produce a solution and not just be complaining," said Pelayo.
So like any good student, she did her homework and came up with realistic calculations. Under the calculations, the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex would be able to safely accommodate any graduating class in RRISD, even with socially-distanced students, a stage, and some friends and family.
At first, she took those calculations to the superintendent but was told the graduation "walk" would continue. That’s when she and Black decided to move forward with the petition, which as of Sunday, had close to 1,400 signatures.
Pelayo attended last year’s Westwood graduation with a friend, so she knows what to expect if the district continues with the current plan. She said, not only did it not feel special, last year was different.
"At the time that’s all they could do, there were a lot of unknowns," she said. "We know about social distancing and wearing masks and how that can help, and I think at this point we should be able to do something larger."
"I think that other districts in the surrounding area have shown that is something they have been able to push for," said Pelayo. "Now we’re just really hoping our leaders will push for it for us, and we’re confident in their ability to do that."
Pelayo and Black also didn’t want to leave out students or families that still may not be comfortable with an in-person, traditional ceremony. Because they anticipate having two separate ceremonies anyway, part of their graduation pitch is to have one traditional ceremony and one non-traditional ceremony.
The two also had nothing but positive things to say about their experience over the years with Round Rock ISD and the teachers and staff.
"We just however think that the decision to not have a traditional graduation that was made last semester was a little premature," said Black. "Why isn’t the discussion open for us to have a traditional graduation when we have our COVID numbers declining and vaccinations increasing?"
And after, in their words - "a crazy senior year" - they’re just asking for the final day to be memorable.
"Just having some kind of ceremony that really honors the seniors and brings some kind of normalcy to our senior year," said Pelayo.
Pelayo and Black plan to present the petition to the school board on Thursday.