TAYLORVILLE, Ill. (WCIA)– When the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced all in-person graduations, including drive through and small group ceremonies were canceled, seniors like Taylorville High schooler Molly Smith were devastated.
“I knew my principal and superintendent had been spending hours to make sure that this was a safe as it possibly could be. There was zero contact and nothing of the sort so it was a safe experience for students to get honored,” Smith said.
So Smith took matters it into her own hands, writing a letter to Governor Pritzker and posting a message through her school’s broadcasting outlet.
“The last quarter of our senior year, which was supposed to be the best part of high school, was taken from us by COVID-19. Our school administrators were determined not to take graduation from us too,” Smith said in the message.
The video got thousands of views and shares on Facebook. On Saturday, ISBE along with the Illinois Department of Public Health updated the guidance for graduations. State Superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala said partially in a statement:
“The passionate feedback we received this week about the importance of graduation ceremonies shows me how much you care – and makes me proud. The updated guidelines seek to honor the effort so many of you have put into planning safe alternatives to the traditional graduation ceremony.”
For Taylorville High’s principal, this is a proud moment for Smith and all of her classmates.
“I was very excited for the seniors and now we’re going to be able to honor and recognize those seniors for all of their hard work and accomplishments,” Matt Hutchison said. “True, it is not a traditional commencement ceremony but still, we’re going to be able to do something that is going to recognize their hard work and efforts at Taylorville High School.”
Taylorville High School will hold their drive through ceremony followed by a parade at the Christian County Fairgrounds on May 22nd. ISBE is still strongly suggesting schools hold virtual ceremonies but safe, in-person ceremonies can be held as long as local districts approve.