Elijah Page, left, takes the diploma passed under the plexiglass barrier by class adviser Dewey Hernandez on Saturday in Penny Memorial Gym at Hall-Dale High in Farmingdale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

FARMINGDALE — On Saturday, 73 students from Hall-Dale, self-described as misfits, fittingly capped their strange school year with an unorthodox set of six small graduations.

Hall-Dale senior Lily Marston hugs her sister, Georgie Marston, and gives her a rose on Saturday at Hall-Dale High School’s graduation ceremony in Farmingdale. The class included a rose ceremony in which the soon-to-be-graduates would go out into audience and give a rose to two to friends and family members. Principal Mark Tinkham said that they kept that tradition in the smaller ceremonies to keep things as normal as possible despite having to make changes because of coronavirus pandemic. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

A recording of “Pomp and Circumstance” began and about a dozen students, clad in caps, gowns and a black mask that read “Bulldogs 2020,” marched into the school’s gymnasium for the second of six ceremonies around 2 p.m. Saturday. Their steps were audible, as was the shuffling of roughly 30 guests who sat in folding chairs in socially distanced groups on the gym floor.

For students, it was the culmination of a topsy-turvy school year that was turned on its head by the coronavirus pandemic. Classrooms were swapped for online Zoom conferences, and similarly, a crowded, stuffy graduation ceremony was swapped for multiple quick, intimate ceremonies.

Hall-Dale’s six ceremonies were originally going to be held on the soccer field, but rainy weather forced the ceremony into the school’s gymnasium. Each ceremony graduated between 12 and 14 students, all of whom were seated about 6 feet away from each other on a stage. When they received their diplomas, a faculty member handed it to students under a plexiglass barrier.

Class President Brooke McKechnie said in her address that Hall-Dale High School has given her class, “the class of adversity, persistence, grit, misfits and weirdos,” its unconditional love and support.

“Hall-Dale has provided us a safe space to grow, try new things and flourish,” she said “(Hall-Dale) has given us the opportunity to be comfortable with our shortcomings, and has also given us the confidence to go out into the world and try again.”

McKechnie said students may leave high school with a “false sense of security” and urged her classmates to work hard in life, because without hard work, “one cannot enjoy relaxation.”

“Sometimes in the real world you only get one chance at something; don’t screw it up or turn it in late,” she said. “The theme of our academic career has been very lackadaisical, but know that structure and routine is needed in life.”

Principal Mark Tinkham reflected on how the coronavirus crisis has changed everyday life. He said this moment in time could be looked at as an opportunity to work together to address the needs of the community.

A small group of the Class of 2020 marches in for a graduation ceremony Saturday in Penny Memorial Gym at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“During times of crisis, it is an opportunity to find the good in our community, to support one another (and) to be creative in the way we celebrate life,” he said. “One thing that I do know, the class of 2020, through this experience, they will come out stronger, and they will come out equipped to handle life’s greatest challenged.”

Tinkham reflected on an event last month where students returned to the school to take pictures and return school-issued laptops. He said the class’ bond was evident as some students stayed for half-an-hour to speak with each other.

“My heart smiled as the seniors were able to see one another,” he said. “I know that many of you shared the burden of taking care of siblings or working to help support the family, and seeing one another allowed you for at least 15 minutes to shed those adult roles and be kids again.”

After the ceremony, graduate Elijah Page was taking photos with his parents in front of an arch decorated with red and black balloons. Page said the graduation was “strange,” but yet another example of him and classmates doing “things our way.”

A small group of the Hall-Dale High School Class of 2020 marches in for their graduation ceremony Saturday in Penny Memorial Gym at the Farmingdale school. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“No matter what small group I’d be in, I’d always be surrounded by my friends,” he said. “Everyone knows each other and everyone is friends with each other.”

Renee Page, Elijah’s mother, said she appreciated the “time and effort” the school’s faculty put in to making these amended graduation ceremonies a “meaningful experience.”

“For the past two nights, we’ve had livestreaming of awards and the baby pictures and all of that,” she said. “I just really appreciate the extra effort to make this happen.”

Class advisor Dewey Hernandez, in an address with a superhero theme, urged graduates to “fly” after high school.

“I challenge you to go out into the world like real-life superheroes,” he said.  “Help people, be kind, always do the right thing, but don’t be afraid to be adventurous.”

After the sixth and final ceremony, a parade of students in vehicles were to drive down Hallowell’s Water Street. After the parade, fireworks were planned at Hall-Dale Elementary School.


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