The cars pulled in slowly to South Albany High School, unable to stop very long in the rain.
There should have been grandstands. There should have been a band. There should have been balloons, gowns, pomp and circumstance.
But on Wednesday as seniors pulled into the parking lot of the high school, all that greeted them was rain and love under a banner with their senior quote: "I am not afraid of the storms for I am learning to sail my ship."
The 315 seniors at South Albany High School have weathered quite a storm along with seniors around the state as COVID-19 robbed them of the last few months between childhood and the rest of their lives.
Schools around Oregon closed for good in April, ending classes through the remainder of the academic year. Seniors who were in good standing at the time of the closure were given passing marks for the semester but little hope of walking across the stage in June.
"There's still a hope we can do something in August," said Principal Nate Munoz, who supervised Wednesday's cap and gown pickup.
Students all received a class photo and a package of cookies as well, with teachers cheering them on. Textbooks had already been returned in a similar drive-through fashion in April.
At the time, senior Grace Sitton described the feeling of visiting the school she never got to say a proper goodbye to.
"The feeling I had pulling up to the parking lot was like nothing else," she said. "It really hit me that this is how it's going to end. The past 12 years of hard work we've all put in doesn't get to be celebrated the normal way. All the end-of-year traditions, such as dances, senior pranks, senior breakfast, senior all night party."
Wednesday's gathering wasn't in lieu of graduation but a chance to celebrate seniors, Munoz said.
"We could have kept it simple, but we figured we can do two things at once and really love on them and let them know we're still thinking of them."
And while he might not see his seniors again until late summer, he hopes they'll keep his advice close.
"One of the things I tell seniors is tough moments make tough people, and that's true right now."
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