PHOTOS: Wilton High School graduation features caravan parade
WILTON — Despite unusual circumstances, there was considerable pomp at Wilton High School’s 2020 graduation today. It may not have been a traditional ceremony, but it was probably one of the most celebratory and memorable ones the town has ever seen.
The graduating class rolled into the future in more ways than one on Saturday, rejoicing over their individual 13-year accomplishments by taking part in an enormous parade that swept through town in lieu of a commencement ceremony.
“I actually think it ended up being really cool,” said graduate Kailey Titus. “I was skeptical at first, but as details emerged and the big day finally arrived, things began to look much better,” she said.
“It’s going to be very interesting to talk about in the future,” she added. “No other class had this, so it’s special.”
The last months of high school for the class were cut short due to quarantining at home during the coronavirus pandemic, so school officials set out to make graduation special for the students. Working with the town, they decided to hold a caravan parade to honor the class of 2020.
“I think they did a really good job with everything they could,” said Remi Taubin. “It’s sad but exciting at the same time.”
The caravan followed a four-mile loop that went past Miller-Driscoll, Middlebrook and Cider Mill schools. Cars carrying the graduates and their families then entered Kristine Lilly Way from School Road and formed two lines that drove under the arch in front of the high school.
Maintaining social distancing, at two separate locations, students were able to exit their cars, receive their diploma covers from school officials, and turn their tassels to mark graduation. The entire event was televised live as well.
“It’s exciting,” said senior Eleanor Winrow. “At first it was definitely upsetting because it wasn’t the traditional ceremony, but it turned into a very nice ceremony.”
“Things have lined up beautifully to make this day happen,” said Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith, noting that students at least had the opportunity to to be photographed on this milestone day.
Smith praised the work of numerous volunteers and staff members who helped organize the day, with special mention of Police Chief John Lynch and First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice.
“They’ve just been vital to this process and have been wonderfully supportive all the way through,” he said.
“This is an extremely unique graduation experience that will go down in the storied history of Wilton High School,” principal Robert O’Donnell said as he prepared to welcome the caravan.
“We’re feeling tremendous pride for the Wilton graduating class of 2020 and their families,” he said, acknowledging the work of many volunteers, including the planning committee and the students who took part in it.
“I think it’s actually pretty cool,” said graduate Moses Trujillo. He believed in some ways it was better than a traditional ceremony, which could end up being “really boring,” in his opinion. “It’s also good to see everyone after such a long quarantine,” he said.
“I think what they’re doing is actually really unique,” said Will Trentos, whose only concern was that his mother wouldn’t overdo the decorations on the car. “She was going to put a floating unicorn on top with a graduation gown,” he said. “I thought it was a bit too much.”
Like many other parents, Will’s mother, Kathy Trentos, was filled with pride at her son’s accomplishment. “It’s sad that his grandparents can’t be here, and his aunts and uncles,” she said. In a “normal” year, a big family celebration would have taken place afterwards at their home.
Will’s sister Katrina, who graduated from Wilton in 2016, experienced a virtual graduation at her college earlier this season. “It was the best they could do,” she said.
Katrina also believes Wilton High School was making the best of a challenging situation. “This is great,” she said. “And it’s really sweet that they’re going past all the other schools too.”
“It feels great,” said Andrea Leonardi, assistant superintendent for student services, who was among the school officials taking part in the celebration.
“The weather couldn’t be better,” she said. “The kids are excited, parents are excited, and everyone’s ready to get the parade started.”
“I think the school did a really good job,” said graduate John Walsh. It felt good, he said, to be celebrating outside.
Amid the fanfare and celebration, there was also recognition that this was an emotional time for families and the students themselves, who were closing this chapter in their stories.
“It’s weird to think this may be the last time I may see some people,” said graduate Andrew Travers. “But I think they did a good job of making it a special time for us.”