AMHERST — As music played and spectators clapped and used various noisemakers, including their car horns, more than 200 Amherst Regional High School seniors made their way across a makeshift stage set up in front of the school Wednesday.
Staying at least six feet apart to maintain proper social distancing during the daylong graduation procession, some of the seniors approached Principal Gene Jones and Assistant Principal Talib Sadiq, imitating a handshake or an elbow bump with the school leaders, before removing their face coverings for a professional snapshot on stage, then heading to the embrace of their families and photos with their loved ones.
The graduation exercises for the class of 2020, coming in the midst of a global pandemic, were unlike any that had come before, even as school officials aimed to bring some normalcy to the proceedings of handing out diplomas.
“It was weird,” senior Julian Cartagena said of the experience. “You had to be extra mindful of social distancing.”
But Cartagena said the ceremony was quick and easy and felt right.
“I’m glad I got to walk the stage and that that wasn’t taken away from me. I’m OK with it,” Cartagena said.
Graduating senior Patricia Sittauer said participating in the unusual ceremony was a sentimental experience, even though it was not how she preferred to have her time in high school end.
“It doesn’t feel like school anymore. It feels like something else entirely,” Sittauer said. “It’s still kind of fun to get our own individual moment.”