COVID has affected a lot of things in the last 15 months, but the prom must go on.
And it did June 5 for the Chemainus Secondary School Class of 2021, luckily with less graduates than the maximum number allowed for public gatherings. The grads were whisked through Chemainus and Crofton for a drive-by celebration first for the community to acknowledge them before assembling at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds for their formal proceedings.
It was about as close to normal for their momentous occasion as the grads could have expected.
We asked a trio of the grads what it was like for prom and if it was everything they hoped for after possibly facing the prospect of nothing happening due to COVID.
“Having our prom day finally come was such a ‘normal’ exciting time that we hadn’t gotten to have in so long,” noted Hanna Starkie. “All year we had hoped to do something fun, but our plans had been changed so many times that it was a bit hard to be optimistic. Having the actual date finally come was like a relief, we could actually let ourselves get excited and celebrate! Our prom day was the closest to normal things have felt all year. Having a grad class of under 50 kids meant that we were able to hold an outdoor dinner with prizes and photos, and get all dressed up to celebrate together!”
“Frankly I wasn’t expecting much due to the limitations caused by COVID, for an example an indoor event may have been better for us because the weather was harsh on the girls who didn’t have a jacket or cardigan to wear later so prom was ended earlier than what was told,” added Asa Sweet.
“I had a great time at prom,” offered Chayla Pollock. “It was obviously not what we all had in mind with it being outside as well as no dancing allowed, but I was just grateful that all of us were able to be together and so thankful for the three moms who were able to make it all happen in such a short amount of time.”
Walking along the red carpet downtown is such a rite of passage for grads in Chemainus so we asked the grads what they thought about that tradition having to be bypassed and whether a drive-by through Chemainus and Crofton helped fill the void.
“The drive-bys that we did through Chemainus and Crofton went great,” Starkie indicated. “When we drove down Willow Street, we all started cheering and smiling when we saw people standing along the sidewalk cheering and holding up posters! It felt like we finally weren’t the ‘forgotten grad class’.”
“I could tell a lot of folks felt sorry for my grad class which is fair for sure but again we made do with what we had,” Sweet pointed out. “The drive-by itself was fun and people were supportive of it.”
“The red carpet was something that was a huge disappointment to not have, but the drive-by ended up working out really well,” Pollock explained. “The turnout in Chemainus and Crofton was great, and lots of people still got to come out and take photos and cheer us on. I was non-stop smiling the whole time.”
Final ceremonies are coming up this week and we wondered what the grads thought about not having the usual full gym of family, friends and guests to see them officially graduating.
“Going into the final diploma ceremonies, it will be strange not getting to have our family watch us walk across the stage, but I think we are all glad to just get to be together as a class – because we’re a learning cohort – and get to see each other walk across the stage and throw our hats together,” Starkie responded. “We’re going to be having the full ceremony with just us students and a few staff and it will be filmed and sent to our families. The next day, the school has organized for us students to get a quick five-minute time slot each where our families can pull up in their car, let us out, and quickly watch us be handed our diploma. It obviously isn’t ideal, but will mean a lot to some parents and family to physically see their kid be handed a diploma!
“All of this has definitely made us realize that we are all going through the same things and feeling the same things in this crazy year.”
“I think the harshness of the situation brought my class together which was good but the lack of organized events has been unfortunate, there was a lot of frustration going around and that has been a common ground for us as a class,” Sweet indicated.
“I’m very sad that my family won’t be able to be there as I’m sure all the other grads are too,” conceded valedictorian Pollock. “Not having my parents there to watch me walk across the stage is honestly really upsetting, but I’m grateful to have such a small class so at least all of us can be together.”