Drive-Up Graduation Brings Personal Touch to Close out Ceremony


Professional photographers were on sight all week to capture the moment for the graduates and their families.

Christina Wong, Associate Editor

During this time of year, NAHS would typically have a traditional graduation with graduates walking across the auditorium stage in matching blue gowns and caps to accept their diploma from principal Ed Roth. Friends and family would be in the audience cheering for their loved ones. This year, however, was different.

Through the help of Roth and his team, NAHS held its first drive-up graduation. From last Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6 pm, graduates received their diplomas upon a stage set up in the gym with their families beside them. Just as they would at a traditional graduation, graduates heard their names called over a PA to signal their ascent to the stage.

The stage was beautifully decorated with flowers, balloons, and the signature Norristown colors. Students wore their blue graduation robes and caps to the graduation. Many students got creative and personalized their graduation caps. Paloma Martinez took inspiration from Pixar’s iconic floating house scene from “Up,” writing “Adventure is out there” in the clouds painted onto her cap. Martinez realized many of her friends were personalizing their caps she figured she would as well.  “I think it’s a great way to celebrate our accomplishment and a reminder that this is only the beginning of a huge chapter in my life,” she said.

 Graduates got their photographs taken by professional photographers Josiah and Stephanie Blizzard. All of the students received digital copies of their pictures, but prints were also avaiable to purchase.

Unlike past graduations, the drive-up graduation allowed families to walk on stage with their graduates.

After getting their pictures taken, graduates and families walked through a divider to enter the middle part of the gym. There, they would receive their diplomas, transcripts, yearbook, and graduation gifts. 

Although it wasn’t a traditional graduation, many graduates acknowledged the NAHS staff’s hard work and efforts used to make the graduation ceremony possible. “I think it was a great way to honor the class of 2020. It shows that they care about us,” Tomas Rodriguez Castro said. “We can’t all be together, but you can still have the experience of graduating and getting your diploma.”

Many students agreed with Castro. Roth indicated he received a lot of positive feedback from students and families.“The moments that happen on the stage with the families and the kids have just been amazing to watch,” Roth said. “Everyone seems to be smiling on their way out the door, so we’re happy.” 

Roth saw the change in format as an opportunity to change the focus of the ceremony and make the experience more personal. “In a lot of ways a normal graduation is more about the school than the graduate, and just have this be more about the graduate than the school,” Roth said. 

Roth and a team of teachers and administrators composed of Roosevelt principal Carla Queenan, assistant principals Jodi Dunston, Chuck Brenner, Detrick McGriff, and E.J. Smith, librarian Robert Schmalbach, and Doyle wanted to plan a graduation that would be “right by the kids.” Roth explained, “ [The Class of 2020] was robbed of so many things that they were entitled to, that they wanted, that we wanted to experience with them, so I think when we got stressed out, it was just trying to focus on small details, to make sure they walked away from here feeling appreciated.”

Paloma Martinez was one of many students who decorated their graduation caps.

The team collaborated and the ideas kept evolving even until the Friday before the event started when they decided to move the stage from outside to inside due to the threat of rain. Roth was thankful for his team’s hard work. “Just a good team effort,” Roth said of what motivated them. “Just trying to keep in mind what would be best for the families to take away and give them that picture and special moment.”

Once they recieved their official diploma, graduates could take pictures outside with their families.

Although the drive-up graduation was a big hit, it might not be the last event for the Class of 2020.  Roth left open possibility the Class of 2020 will have another event dedicated to them in the fall.  “The one thing that’s left to be decided for the Class of 2020 is at some point, in the Fall, we still want to get them together for something,” Roth said. “What that is, we don’t know yet, but we still want to do that.” 

Congratulations to the Class of 2020 and the Wingspan wishes you all the best of luck!