It is improbable that anyone taking part in this year’s Corning and Centennial high schools’ graduation ceremonies will ever forget the unique circumstances surrounding the experience.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremonies took place at Rolling Hills Casino and Resort Amphitheater in drive-in movie fashion, with cars, holding gowned graduates, parked in rows facing the stage listening to the events on their vehicle’s radios.
On the stage was a podium from which speeches were given and graduates’ names called out.
Graduates stood in front of their vehicles as a member of the Corning Union High School District Board handed them each a diploma – no handshakes or hugs allowed in compliance with COVID-19 requirements.
Each step of each ceremony was displayed on the amphitheater’s two giant movie screens for all to see.
Graduate Jazmine Lopez gave the welcoming address during Corning High’s ceremony.
Looking back through her years at Corning High, she said, “Everything was great until we had to go through the process of social distancing due to COVID-19, and stopped going to school altogether. We faced the hard truth of missing our last rally, barbecue, prom, game, meet, or performance. We also missed out on our very own senior skip day, senior night, sober grad and senior goodbye.
“Although we may have skipped most of the firsts and lasts of senior year, we are here, in the middle of the sweetest victory, our high school graduation.”
In her graduation commencement speech, Corning High graduate, Angela Ostartello, said, “Despite every obstacle we have faced, and every social distancing guideline put between us, we still found a way to be here with each other one last time. At least we got this unique ceremony, which is the first, and hopefully last, of its kind. What we do after tonight is up to us, but wherever you go and whatever you do, I wish you nothing but the best.”
District Superintendent Jared Caylor noted in his remarks that during a virtual Corning High School Award Night, 115 scholarships were given away from 43 community organizations, totaling a value of $371,450.
Corning High School Principal Charlie Troughton recognized all of the students who graduated through one of the six pathway programs, each identified with a particular colored tassel on their caps or gold cords draped around their necks, and then the students graduating in the Career Technical Education programs, the State Seal of Biliteracy Scholars, California Scholastic Federation and High Achievers.
Corning High School graduated 202 members of the Class of 2020, while earlier in the day, Centennial High School and Corning Independent Study handed out diplomas to 26 graduates.
The venue, equipment, set-up staff and staging for the two ceremonies was graciously provided by the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians, with the coordination of the ceremonies organized and carried out by Corning Union High School District administration, faculty and staff.