Photo: Pictured above, Gaston High School senior Gracie Wood smiles while receiving her cap and gown at Gaston’s drive-through celebration for the Class of 2020 on Friday, May 1.
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer
When Gaston seniors arrived at their high school on Friday, May 1, they received much more than a cap and gown.
Students who drove through the car line were greeted with encouragement and applause from Gaston faculty and staff, who dedicated their day to cheering the seniors on and reminding members of the Class of 2020 they are not forgotten.
Vibrant streamers and decorations reading “Congratulations!” ordained Gaston High School’s front entrance, paired with a large flat-screen television that featured the graduates’ senior portraits.
As students drove up, faculty members serving as DJs and announcers blared music, calling out each senior’s name as he or she arrived. Resounding congratulatory phrases echoed throughout the school grounds, with “We’ll miss you!” remaining a frequent statement from students and teachers alike.
Gaston High Principal Tammy George and Assistant Principal Richard Tant developed the idea for a drive-through celebration while collaborating with senior sponsors and teachers. A true team effort, Ellis Entertainment in Southside donated all sound equipment while the teachers and staff contributed their time and support.
The close-knit faculty at Gaston is undeniable. Masks could not conceal the smiles of encouragement Gaston teachers presented to each student during the celebration, nor could social distancing erase the sense of unity and togetherness the faculty promotes. Teachers danced and jumped for joy as their students drove up, waving and wishing them happiness and success in all the days to come.
“You just miss [the students],” said George. “We love them so much. These teachers didn’t all have to be here today, but they came up because they care. We have a great faculty at Gaston. Any of these teachers could [teach online], but they don’t choose to do that. They choose to teach face-to-face because they love the interaction with the kids. We take care of each other.”
While the support Gaston teachers display to their students remains unquestionable, the gratitude Gaston students feel in return proves evident as well. Endless thankful expressions came from each vehicle, students grinning and waving at their teachers. Students decorated their cars with painted messages and honked their horns while driving off. Overcome with emotion, one senior cried as she witnessed the thoughtful celebration created for her.
“It’s emotional,” said Tant. “I feel like Mrs. George and I and our teachers have made an accomplishment getting these young people through high school and we care about them. They’re our future. We still have seniors from past graduating classes come by and we let them visit the teachers and other kids. We’re a family. They’ve finished this chapter, now it’s time to start a new chapter. We just wish them the best and [hope they] come back home to support the bulldogs.”
Gaston plans to hold a graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 at a later date. Whether the ceremony will take place at Gadsden State or Gaston’s own football field depends on the restrictions concerning COVID-19 at that time. Regardless of when or where graduation takes place, Gaston seniors understand they graduated from a school dedicated to its students—preserving their memory and ensuring that despite the setbacks, they receive the appreciation they deserve.
“They deserve to have something that puts them in the spotlight,” said George. “The students didn’t get everything they would if they were in school. We tried to look for something that would let them know that they’re still a part of Gaston—they’re still seniors, and we appreciate everything they’ve done. I know it’s just giving them their cap and gowns, but it’s also reassuring them that we are going to have graduation as soon as we’re able. We’re proud of them, we love them and we’re always here for them.”