BRIDGEWATER TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – What a year to be a high school senior.
For many, the coronavirus pandemic has meant they’ve gone without several rites of passage, including graduation and prom.
But one school in New Jersey is making sure their students aren’t leaving high school without a proper celebration.
For so many, the yellow school bus is a symbol of the beginning of a 12 year journey through elementary and high school.
This week in Bridgewater, New Jersey, it also symbolized that journey coming to an end for 699 high school seniors.
The buses, filled with faculty and staff from Bridgewater-Raritan High School, along with fire trucks and police cruisers, have been visiting each student home.
One by one, delivering diplomas, dropping off gift bags with swag, saying goodbye, and hosting mini, makeshift graduations for families and friends.
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For Alena John-Angle, it’s a great sendoff before college.
“It’s really, really cool! I didn’t think anything would happen, and we would just graduate. So I think it’s really special,” she said.
The mini-graduation ceremonies have been in the works for weeks. Every day this week, teachers and staff gathered to load up eight buses to visit the students at home.
“The kids have been awesome, and it was hard to imagine what it would look like. But when we’re with families, it’s exciting and it’s so gratifying,” said principal Charles Ezell.
The students say it has been a difficult few months having to finish off the year alone, without friends and teachers, and missing out on big moments like prom and graduation.
“It was definitely tough, but this made it all worth it in the end,” said student Daniel Ward.
“I think it’s better than a graduation, cause normally you have to sit there, and it’s hot. And this is cool for a change of pace. And it’s more interesting,” said Anthony Avin.
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Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy announced outdoor graduation ceremonies will be allowed starting in July.
But Bridgewater Raritan says the school had already put so much effort into planning this initiative, they decided to go ahead with it anyway. The school is now also looking into planning another more formal graduation later this summer.
For now, parents say, this week’s celebrations were more than welcome.
“After 12 years, not getting a regular graduation, and a lot of them were looking forward to it. But under the circumstances the school is doing a great job making sure they get to have the recognition they deserve,” said one parent.
“For the fireman and police to also participate, I really appreciate it,” said mother Katie John-Angle.
The students agree.
“I’ve spent 12 years with this district and I’ve had my challenges, my ups and downs and everything. And it mean a a lot to me that they went to everyone’s house and made this special during this pandemic crisis,” Alena said.
The seniors say while they’re happy to head into the next chapter of their lives, they’re also so grateful they had such a great teachers and faculty to help guide them along the way.