Unorthodox, uncommon and unconventional would be three apt terms to describe graduation activities at Pahrump Valley High School this year.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Principal George Campnell said he and other faculty members were forced to come up with creative methods in order to hold graduation ceremonies for the 2020 senior class this year.
The graduates, dressed in their caps and gowns, actually participated by way of a drive-thru ceremony in the parking lot of the school, where they exited the vehicle to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance,” as they marched to the stage for photos and accolades from administrators on May 27th and 28th.
This year, 260 seniors earned their diplomas, according to Campnell.
“Basically, the seniors come around the school to the gates where we have a group of teachers standing by,” Campbell explained last week. “They come to the front of the school where we have two staging areas. The student gets out of the car, walks across the parking lot and receives their diploma cover. The student then goes up on stage for a photo opportunity with their parents, followed by the tassel turning ceremony, signifying that they are high school graduates.”
One of the graduates Campnell was speaking of was Madison Hansen, who said the ceremony was not what she expected at the beginning of the school year.
“This graduation is definitely one to remember and I am very grateful for the administration to put this on,” Hansen said. “We weren’t planning on this because we always thought it would be a normal graduation, but I think this one is pretty special and I will always remember it.”
As far as her favorite classes during her time at the school, Hansen said she enjoyed science the most.
“I loved all of my science classes, especially anatomy,” she noted. “I want to become a physical therapist, so anatomy was something that I really enjoyed taking as a class. I plan on attending Dixie University in St George, Utah, and after that I plan to become a physical therapist. I was never really a big fan of math.”
Graduating senior Jasmin Minor spoke about a bit of apprehension during her time in school.
“I didn’t expect myself to make it, but I’m glad I did,” she said. “Basically, my favorite class was being a teacher’s assistant in the office. I’ll probably attend a community college and then go to a university. I plan to study business and then go to cosmetology school.”
School Registrar and Graduation Coordinator Jennifer Shockley talked about all of the teamwork that was necessary to host this year’s commencement ceremonies.
“We kind of threw this together as quick as we could,” she said “We weren’t really sure how it was going to happen, but it went really well. “It seemed like the students were spacing themselves, so they were getting their time in to enjoy the moment. Even though it’s not the full ceremony, it has some of those important aspects of hearing their name, being on the stage, and giving parents the opportunity to have those pictures taken.”
Shockley also noted that just like previous graduation ceremonies, the seniors will actually receive their diplomas at a later date.
“We give them their diploma covers but as usual, there are no diplomas inside,” she said. “We never hand out diplomas at graduation because they tend to get lost sometimes, especially in this situation because we don’t know who is coming. Diploma handouts will start on Wednesday, June 3rd. They will be able to come in and get their diploma packet, official transcripts, as well as information on the photos that were taken and anything else they may need.”
Campnell, meanwhile, delivered great praise to his staff for their respective efforts this year.
“It was absolutely brilliant with the overwhelming parent gratitude, and seeing all of the students smiling, there were lots of tears of joy,” he said. “We are thankful that we were able to do this to give the kids an opportunity to experience graduation. I personally have never seen anything like this before, and we just felt that we needed to honor our seniors. Before this all happened, it had been a great year here at the high school.”
Returning to normalcy
Additionally, Campbell said it remains unclear at present when campuses will resume their normal activities.
“We don’t have guidance just yet on when school can return to its regular schedule,” he noted. “We are waiting for the governor’s office and the Department of Education to give us some guidance in what the expectation will be. I am most impressed with our staff, because in a very short period of time, we had to redesign how we teach our students. We went to a learning-from-a-distance model and our teachers were brilliant. A lot of folks had to be innovative and very creative problem solvers.”
At one point earlier this year, Campnell said everybody from the school was working from home.
“For our teachers with families, they ended up with kind of a double duty, where they are trying to teach classes while supporting their own kids in learning,” he said. “We have a very talented group of administrators here that can design a program for our students as best as they can. I just want to give another compliment to our teachers for all of their flexibility.”
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @pvtimes