January 23rd, 2021

Chinook grads make the most of a difficult situation

By Lethbridge Herald on June 19, 2020.

Chinook High School valedictorian Asha Tannis addresses her 2020 classmates at a drive-in grad ceremony in the Chinook High parking lot on Friday. The short ceremony had grads exit their cars, walk across the stage to pose for photos and return to their cars due to public health orders in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Herald photo by Tim Kalinowski

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
Strange, unprecedented, unique — choose your adjective — students at Chinook High School were thrilled to be able to take part in at least a drive-in grad ceremony on Friday.
“The nice thing about a drive-in ceremony,” said Chinook High vice-principal Tara Cunningham, “is even though there is only about 40 families at a time kids do get to bear witness to their peers crossing the stage, there’s an audience, and there is still somewhat a sense of tradition. I think there is a lot of excitement. Parents are very happy they get to come and have that moment with their kids.”
Back in April it appeared the entire ceremony would be cancelled altogether because of COVID-19 public health restrictions, but thanks to the recent lifting of some restrictions on gatherings by Alberta Health, Fridays’ drive-in graduation became an opportunity to see classmates one more time, get a cap and gown photo taken, and celebrate this special achievement with family members.
Families drove into the Chinook High parking lot in a parade which took the place of the usual grad procession. They parked. Heard some inspiring words from this year’s valedictorian Asha Tannis, and then the grads got out of their cars and approached the stage one by one to have a photo taken and receive some excited honks instead of applause. They then departed the stage to head back to their family’s vehicle and make their way home.
The 30-minute ceremony was repeated six times throughout the afternoon, creating a lot of work for Tannis, but she didn’t mind.
“I have to read the speech six times to six different groups of 50,” explained Tannis, who plans to attend medical school in Poland this fall and eventually become a doctor. “But I am happy that we still get a ceremony unlike many other students who did it online. This is a major moment in our lives that I think so many of us picture throughout high school. I think it is important we celebrate it.”
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