- School District 49
PHS Class of 2020 Starts Post-Grad Season in Center Field
Brittney Merthen, a senior from Patriot High School’s class of 2020, stood on the center field warning track of her school’s softball field in a blue cap and gown on graduation day, May 23, waiting to hear her name called by PHS Principal Steven Gard.
Behind her, Blake Bullivant stood next to his family’s truck just beyond the center field wall moments before their unique commencement ceremony officially began.
“I’m stoked. It looks like a drive-through,” Bullivant observed as he looked at a line of idling cars that held PHS grads and their families. Like so many other students destined for graduation in 2020, Blake wasn’t sure what to expect when the COVID-19 response forced the cancellation of in-person learning and so many other large events.
But the PHS senior agreed the socially-distanced, drive-in movie theater style ceremony on the Falcon Legacy Campus offered a perfectly acceptable alternative to a traditional graduation event.
“I figured I would have to do my class and redo it next year,” Bullivant said. “I’m excited!”
One by one, starting with Merthen, Principal Gard announced the names of the class of 2020, sharing a few words written for each grad by a PHS staff member. The graduates’ families waited in their vehicles and listened to the remarks broadcast on an FM radio station, honking and cheering when their student walked from center field to the principal’s podium to receive their diploma.
“I know that each and every grad has come to PHS for many different reasons,” Gard said. “Whatever your reason is, that was the past, and we need to celebrate that you all made it to the finish line. That is a huge celebration, and you should all be very proud.”
In addition to pride, some grads described the feeling of reaching the finish line as a mixture of excitement, nerves and novelty.
“I’ve gone through 18 years to graduate with my parents in a car,” Weston Pezdirtz chuckled. “In 10 years we’ll be saying, like, ‘We graduated during corona.’ It’s gonna be crazy.”
“It means everything,” added Weston’s stepmother Lisa. “He’s worked so hard. He pulled it off, and we could not be more proud!”
26 of 28 graduating PHS seniors completed the commencement circuit, jumping back into their vehicle with a diploma in hand, positioned to begin the next chapter of their lives.
“They persevered in a way that no other class has, and that is worth noting,” Gard said at the conclusion of the unique celebration for the class of 2020. “This is what we’ve been striving for. It's a great cherry on top of the sundae, so to speak.”
Click the E49 or Facebook logo below to see the PHS Class of 2020 graduation album on Facebook