LOUISBURG — Life has not been a parade for Louisburg High School seniors who unknowingly walked out of the high school building in mid-March for the last time as students.
But at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 16, Wildcat Drive resembled a parade as LHS seniors, wearing their graduation caps, smiled and waved from the passenger seat of decorated vehicles that streamed past family, friends and other community members. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t rain on this parade.
Some supporters held up signs and most offered congratulatory remarks to each senior that passed by. LHS Principal Jeremy Holloway stood on the edge of the LHS Marching Band practice field and pointed at every senior that drove by and offered encouraging remarks.
LHS Class of 2020 Celebration Drive was put together by a group of parents who wanted to honor the senior class.
“There were a few of us parents that kept texting back and forth and brainstorming for ideas on some different ways to celebrate our Louisburg 2020 seniors,” said Debbie Vincent, one of the principal organizers. “We came up with a bunch of different ideas. A parade kept coming up, but we knew we couldn’t do certain things because of the social distancing and the rules with the COVID.”
The group put the plan into overdrive earlier this month.
“We decided if a parent or someone else was driving, then the senior could be in the passenger seat or back seat in their cap and then go along a designated route,” Vincent said.
The group decided to put a flyer together and publicize it on Facebook and other social media to get the word out to the community members so they could participate and show their support.
“Melissa White and Sarah George were the two that actually put the parade route together and the flyer,” Vincent said. “They did all that legwork.”
Early Friday, May 15, a group put up a row of signs along Wildcat Drive to honor the seniors. Each sign was personalized with a large photograph of a senior. Louisburg Chamber of Commerce Director Becky Bowes spearheaded the effort.
“After all the great ideas we saw on Facebook and everywhere else, I knew we had to do something, so we came together with the help of parents, the chamber of commerce and the rec commission and got signs from Partners Printing just to celebrate the seniors.” Bowes said.
Diana Moore also was a principal player in the sign effort in a dual capacity as a parent of graduating senior Trinity Moore and as the Louisburg Recreation Commission director.
“Yesterday (Friday) morning, we got up pretty early and set them up because the seniors started at 8 a.m. handing in their Chromebook and all of that,” Moore said Saturday morning. “The school had a little drive by where you dropped off your school stuff and picked up your (bagged up) locker contents, so we wanted it done before they showed up at 8, and we did. A group of about a dozen (mostly parents) put up the signs.”
Moore said the signs were a hit with students and parents.
“The kids are loving it and stopping by and taking pictures, and parents are taking pictures,” Moore said. “We just wanted them up for the originally scheduled graduation weekend. It was a great way for the community, the chamber, the parents to come together to honor the seniors.”
Students had also gone through a similar drive-through to pick up their caps and gowns.
“I think it was emotional for all of them as they went through the drive-through for the cap and gown pickup,” Vincent said.
Vincent, Shelly Geiman and Jackie Tappan started a Facebook page called “Celebrate Our Seniors — LHS Class of 2020” that spawned the celebration drive. The page, started by the three moms of 2020 graduates, offers a lot of creative ways parents and other community members can show their support for seniors — including decorating front doors, stringing purple and white lights, putting up signs and many other tips. People also have contributed a lot of creative ideas, Vincent said.
The community has been following through with the initiative in numerous ways.
“Some people even planted purple and white flowers,” Vincent said.
Two other senior moms, Susan Kratochvil and Karla Holiday, started Adopt-A-Senior — LHS Class of 2020. A community member is encouraged to pick a senior and “reach out to them in all ways possible to celebrate with them in their accomplishments. Send a letter, cards, gifts, food, cake, gift cards, whatever you can afford. Let’s show them some community support.”
“That’s a pretty cool idea,” Vincent said of the Aopt-A-Senior page, which also has been well-received.
Vincent, who drove her daughter Lauren in the parade Saturday, said these seniors have missed out on so much this spring semester.
“It’s a little hard on a parent’s heart,” Vincent said. “As a parent, you never expect something like this to happen. You want to see all those fun times for your kids. It’s kind of like the cake they get to enjoy at the end.”
Some of the Facebook posts about Louisburg seniors include “#2020 Strong.”
“We’re trying to do that and keep that mindset that this is just going to make these kids stronger long term, overcoming adversity and pushing through things and keeping a positive attitude,” Vincent said.
Vincent said she thinks in some ways it’s brought classmates even closer together and showed the importance of cherishing every moment.
Parents are keeping a positive attitude too, and have pulled together and focused on things that they can control in all the craziness — like the parade Saturday, Vincent said.
Rain or shine, the parade started at 2 p.m. Saturday — the same time and date the seniors would have graduated in the high school gymnasium.
“We have a great group of parents, and we’re just trying to get some of these moments back for the seniors,” Vincent said. “Obviously, it’s not going to take the place of them, but if we can make some special memories for them, hopefully that will help.”