WINSLOW — Although the coronavirus pandemic prevented Winslow High School from holding its traditional graduation ceremony at Colby College, the Class of 2020 was able to celebrate in an alternative way.

On Wednesday evening, Winslow’s 110 graduates and their families drove in a procession around Winslow High School to kick off the evening’s festivities. The procession of cars was lead by the police and fire departments as staff and community members lined Danielson Street and the school’s athletic field to show their support.

The cars were directed into the parking lot outside of Winslow Junior High School where they parked 6 feet apart from one another.

To open the ceremony, Principal Chad Bell spoke about the lessons graduates could take from their experience of graduating during a pandemic.

It’s hard to believe that today has come for so many reasons, but we’re all here together and that’s what truly matters right now,” Bell said. “I want my parting words for the class to be about two things … positivity and perseverance, both of which you’ve had to overcome in the last three months. … Sometimes it’s more difficult to look at the bright side of things. What I’m saying is take the time to look for the positive things in life … look at those special moments and cherish them instead of looking at what you lost …”

Before his speech, Bell said he felt nothing but excitement to see the alternative graduation ceremony finally play out. 

Winslow High School seniors are shown as they listen to speakers during the drive-in graduation ceremony for 110 seniors at school. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“This has been a long process to get ready and I’ve tried to tell the seniors all along that no matter what, no matter what happened we would have a special graduation ceremony for them,” Bell said. “And I hope that after tonight they feel that sense of pride that you know this isn’t the greatest but we did it, and it was as special as we could make it …” 

Senior class Secretary Riley Loftus assured Bell of his efforts during her speech.

“Look back on the last 13 years, stop and think about the people who’ve had a positive impact on you,” Loftus said. “Think of our own principal who put in countless hours trying to salvage our graduation, and from Class of 2020, Mr. Bell, you nailed it.” 

When class President Jake Huesers addressed the graduates, he assured them that he wouldn’t spend his entire speech talking about the things the coronavirus pandemic took from them.

“My promise to all of you today (is) that a portion of this speech will be virtually the same as if COVID-19 never bothered us,” Huesers said. “Such is life, God forbid if something like this happens again, but if it does we will all be able to remember this unbelievably chaotic period and remember the ways we made it out OK …

“I’d like to point out that only a small fraction of the Winslow High School experience has been ruined by quarantine,” he continued. “For a solid three-and-a-half school years we got up just as the sun was rising to spend a six-and-a-half hour school day under fluorescent lighting. We survived countless hours of standardized testing, midterms, finals, assemblies and required courses. … Nonetheless, it’s important to spend some time dwelling on the happy moments of the past four years — game days, study halls, winter carnival, at least nine school dances and the occasional random moments of peace.”

Huesers noted that the four years he and his peers spent at Winslow High School is only the beginning of a much larger journey of self discovery.

“Most of you who are graduating here today aren’t really going to figure out who you are until many years from now, and that’s perfectly OK,” Huesers said. “High school’s aren’t meant to produce finished products in my opinion. Our entire lives up until now have only laid a foundation. … Whatever personal growth you were able to achieve at Winslow High School will also travel with you. Adversity breeds character growth. … The more that you put yourself in uncomfortable, unfamiliar positions, the more you will learn about yourself and strengthen your character.”

After faculty guest speakers Christine Bertolaccini and David Lachapelle ended the speech portion of the ceremony, graduates got out of their cars to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas. Once back in their cars, graduates were lead in the traditional turning of the tassel to become official Winslow High School Alumni. 

Winslow High School serves Winslow students and is open to students from China and Vassalboro.

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