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The City Journals

An al fresco graduation ceremony unlike any before

Jun 29, 2020 11:30AM ● By Jerilyn Langston Toro

Highland High held a graduation ceremony with a parade through Sugar House Park. (Jerilyn Langston Toro/City Journals)

By Jerilyn Langston Toro | [email protected]

Every year Highland High School graduation ceremonies are held at the University of Utah campus. There are an average of 400 graduates every year. Each of those graduates brings their family members to the ceremony. This means that the venue should be able to hold at least 3,000 attendees.

This year’s graduation came with the dilemma on how to hold a ceremony with the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines. In fact, there was a lot of talk about the ceremony being canceled during the beginning of the coronavirus quarantine. Many students, teachers, and parents felt it was unfair to the graduates not to hold some sort of ceremony for all of their hard work.

The faculty got creative. They pulled off a memorable experience for the students and family who graduated from high school this year. This ceremony was one of its kind. In Highland High School's history graduation ceremonies have never occurred in Sugar House Park adjacent from the school.

The city closed Sugar House Park on June 3 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to the public. Only graduates were allowed to enter the park with one vehicle. Any additional vehicles were prohibited unless parents were legally separated. Many vehicles were packed to the brim of people. There were friends and students packed into the back of trucks waving signs of congrats to their fellow alumni.  

Horns were honking and the public address system alerted everyone to stay in their vehicle. To keep the row of vehicles moving, graduates were allowed to exit their vehicle and walk to an outdoor platform to accept their diploma as teachers stood across the street cheering them on.  Family members had to stay in their vehicle and take photos of the graduate accepting their diploma from afar.   

Many family members did not stay in their vehicles due to the excitement, although most cheered with their seat belts fastened and their air conditioner cranked up. The valedictorian of Highland High, Adelle was seen cruising through the park with support from her family. Leilah Seui’s family created a banner and walked in front of their vehicle showing their support.