Everyone gets the special at Northampton High drive-thru graduation

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  • Northampton High School graduate Daniel Lanier and his family rode in a trailer pulled by a truck for the school’s drive-thru commencement Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Under a shower of glitter, Northampton High School graduate Tadea Martin-Gonzalez has her photograph taken with her parents, Hanna Gonzalez and George Martin, during the school’s drive-thru commencement Saturday. Her sister, Maya, a 2016 graduate of NHS, stayed in the car and threw more glitter. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton High School graduate Ariana Lev has her photograph taken with her moms, Beth Lev, left, and Marta Lev, and the family dog, Pebbles, on the steps of the school at the drive-thru commencement Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton High School graduate Eleanor Hardin has her photograph taken with her sister, Ruth, a rising freshman at NHS, after picking up her diploma at the school’s 154th graduation Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton High School graduate Sebastian Marquez Valencia has his photograph taken during the drive-thru commencement for the 202 members of the class of 2020 Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton High School graduate Sebastian Marquez Valencia and his family lead a line of cars to the front of the school on Elm Street during the drive-thru commencement Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton High School graduate Jay Mahoney has his photo taken on the steps of the school after receiving his diploma at the drive-thru commencement Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton High School Principal Lori Vaillancourt, left, Mayor David Narkewicz and Superintendent of Schools John Provost applaud graduates as they arrive for the school’s 154th commencement Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sebastian Marquez Valencia picks up his diploma at Northampton High School’s 154th graduation Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton High School graduate Josephine Hardigg poses with her mother, Thea Hardigg, after receiving her diploma at the school’s 154th graduation Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The family of Northampton High School graduate Sebastian Marquez Valencia applaud him as he gets his diploma during the drive-thru commencement at the school Saturday. From left are his parents, Nellizza Valencia and Ricky Marquez, sister, Sabrina, and girlfriend, Caylan Berube. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Joanna James takes a picture of her son, Northampton High School graduate Treyvon James-Salus, with associate principal Celeste Malvezzi after he picked up his diploma at the school’s drive-thru commencement Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 6/6/2020 3:32:06 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Graduates came one by one, some of their vehicles adorned with celebratory balloons, through a gantlet of lawn signs in front of Northampton High School for a unique event Saturday congratulating the Class of 2020.

Most of the school’s graduating seniors didn’t expect this was the way they would get their diplomas — driving up to a school they haven’t been inside since March wearing blue gowns and mortarboards, stepping out for an quick photo opportunity while beaming faculty and family members looked on. But despite the event’s unconventionality, the day was a special in-person send-off for many.

“They have worked all of their educational careers for this moment and they deserve a place where they can shine and just be in the moment to celebrate it,” said Northampton High School Principal Lori Vaillancourt. “There’s no way we could not do something, and this feels perfect.”

Dozens of cars lined up neatly in the hot early afternoon, some with messages written on them lauding their graduating seniors, patiently waiting for the opportunity to finally get their diplomas. A group of officials and faculty, including Mayor David Narkewicz and Superintendent John Provost, cheered on students as they received their diplomas one-by-one and stood underneath an arch of gold, blue and white balloons for photos. 

Students were last at school in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic quickly put a hold on everyday life amid stay-at-home and social distancing guidance. Prom was canceled; Saturday’s graduation exercises will be livestreamed over YouTube at 2 p.m. on June 21.

Waiting in a car with her father was senior Juliette Long, 18. Although it was sad her class had to graduate in such an unusual way, she said, she was happy the school put effort into making the diploma drive-thru feel special.

“I think it’s unique,” Long said. “I think it’s something we can talk about for future generations.”

“It’s heartwarming seeing the support the school community provided under these circumstances,” Juliette’s father, Jonathan Long said. “At least we don’t have a speech to wait through.”

Long, who said she plans to attend Suffolk University in Boston to study political science, said she got used to not being physically present in school, as so many other students across the country were going through similar situations.

Down the line of cars was graduating senior Taylor Mahoney, 18. The graduation was “not what I expected at all,” she said, but she was excited nonetheless. Mahoney said she’s going to Clark University in Worcester to study biology.

“I’m happy I’m still able to celebrate in some way,” Mahoney said. “And it’s different, so I feel like I’ll remember it more … I’m kind of happy I don’t have to sit inside John Greene Hall and sweat and wait there for hours.”

Taylor Mahoney’s mother, Beth Mahoney, said she was grateful she was able to spend more time with her daughter during the pandemic.

“We spent more time with our senior than we probably have in her life in the past three months,” Beth Mahoney said. “We’ve had some really great days and a lot of mini celebrations.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com. 


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