No shortage of pomp for Central seniors

Educators, parents have worked to find ways to celebrate members of the Class of 2020


That's the title Hinsdale Central yearbook staffers choose - in September - for this year's publication. How prophetic.

Members of the Class of 2020 have taken this unexpected season in stride, educators and parents say. And the adults in their lives have done their best to make the end of senior year special.

The "Let's Celebrate Hinsdale District 86 Class of 2020" Facebook page created by Colleen Carroll, G'nee Andrulis and Polly Ascher recognizes seniors from Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South high schools.

"Everybody posted their children and it just kind of snowballed," said Carroll, whose oldest child is a freshman at South. "It's great to see what everybody is doing. It's great to see the achievements of these kids. There are some amazing kids in this class."

Community members were invited to "adopt" a senior posted on the page and send them fan mail, cupcakes or a small gift.

"They're not getting their proms. They're not getting their graduations. Its just something to let them know everyone is thinking about them and are proud of them," Carroll said.

Molly Watcke, whose daughter Emma is a senior, said she wasn't surprised to see how the community rallied around the students. The same thing happened when the family relocated here from Ohio last year.

"When we moved here in January of 2019 the people on the track and cross country team, the parents and the kids, they snatched our whole family up, not just my daughter," she said. "It really made the whole move and transition pretty easy for her in particular."

She has enjoyed reading posts about other seniors and learning where they will attend college.

"The other thing that has been kind of cool for me is people have replied to the post I made for my daughter," she said.

The page is one of a number of virtual tributes to the senior class. Central's counseling department sent out tweets with photos of seniors and their destinations this fall with the hashtag #CollegeSigningDay. The activities department posted senior throwback photos of teachers with the message "We are thinking of the Class of 2020 every day!"

The Booster Club made sure the banners that usually hang around the fence during the graduation ceremony were available for people to hang on their doors or in their yard.

"We were collecting ideas from different places for the seniors to make it feel like a special graduation," Booster Club board member Corey Huth said. "It is a special year - no one has ever been through this before."

The names of each of the 678 graduates have been displayed on the digital sign on 55th Street, activities director Sally Phillip said, noting that Stefanie Hodermarksy, assistant to the principal, spent days typing them in by hand. Parents have invested time to get a photo of their child's name to post on Facebook.

"Parents have sat out there and waited," Phillip said.

Seniors were invited back to school Monday and Tuesday this week for a drive-through pick up of their caps and gowns, diplomas and other items.

"I wish we could do more," Principal Bill Walsh said. "Hopefully we'll be able to do something this summer. At a minimum I'd love to get that stage up and have the kids walk across it in their cap and gown. Passing out diplomas in cars is not the same thing, not even close."

Festivities will culminate tonight in a virtual graduation ceremony that last about an hour.

"I really think the virtual graduation is going to turn out really nicely," Phillip commented. "I've seen it. I think people will be impressed by it."

Parents and students also can watch a 36-minute senior slide show she put together with the help of teacher Rob Russo.

"We've never done that in the past and are just trying to come up with things to do for them," Phillip said.

Walsh said students were in good spirits Monday and Tuesday, despite the circumstances.

"It's great to see them, the smiling faces - through a mask," Walsh said. "I think our kids are resilient."

Although students are missing an amazing ceremony, they still have the tradition of graduating from a great high school, Huth said.

"They're taking it in stride. They're positive and smart kids," she said. "They are sad that they're not getting to go through the graduation ceremony together but in general they are happy to be graduating and ready to move on to their college four years."

Everyone is working to make the best of a tough situation, Walsh said, and trying to keep things in perspective.

"It's a great day to be alive and to be a Red Devil," he said.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean