WALLINGFORD — This year’s commencement ceremonies offer students a chance to be together as a class again months after the pandemic separated them from each other and school staff.
“It’s just that we want to see our classmates and teachers one last time … we’ve known some of these teachers four years,” said Natalie DiDomenico, Sheehan High School’s valedictorian.
DiDomenico believes graduates also want to thank those who helped them through school.
“The school system did a lot to support us, but so did our parents, so did our friends,” she said.
The school district is presenting students with two options. They can participate in a drive-through ceremony at their school — today at Lyman Hall High School and Tuesday at Sheehan — or a drive-through ceremony at the Oakdale Theatre on July 6 for Lyman Hall and July 7 for Sheehan.
Most students will be participating in the celebrations at the Oakdale, where students will watch live speeches being given on an outdoor stage before they walk from cars to receive diplomas onstage. They can also invite a second car full of guests to watch the ceremony as it is streamed to a screen set up in a second parking lot at the theater.
About 100 students indicated they would not be able to attend a July ceremony. Students participating in the drive-in commencement at their school can bring one vehicle to a staging point near the school. They will be formed into small processions to drive to the school where they can get out to receive their diploma.
Sheehan Principal Enzo Zocco said students will be called up from their cars, a brief description of their accomplishments and future plans will be read and photos taken before they return to their car. Speakers for the ceremonies will be pre-recorded and available for participants to watch on their own.
The extra ceremonies and booking the outdoor space at Oakdale brought the cost of this year’s ceremonies to a projected $68,140, up from $40,171 last year, according to district business manager Dominic Barone.
“I think they did a wonderful job, making something out of nothing,” DiDomenico said.
She’s grateful that the administration put so much importance on polling students on their preferences.
“This could have gone so many different ways, but I appreciate that ultimately it was our choice,” she said.
She’s also excited for one minor concession the administration made for the abnormal circumstances — for the first time graduates will be allowed to decorate their caps.
“That’s really special, we’ve been pushing for it for a while,” DiDomenico said.