A long line of cars weaved in and out of the old Kmart parking lot Saturday morning, carrying multiple individuals, some of whom were atop the vehicle soaking in the moment. 

It was a drive-through graduation ceremony available to all Yuba-Sutter seniors on a first-come, first-serve basis. Once pre-registering online the next step was to get in line, similar to any drive-through food restaurant. The only difference was that instead of receiving a takeout order the endgame was a celebration as a graduate of the class of 2020, which has had so many more traditional memories taken away due to the public health crisis surrounding coronavirus. 

“It was cool, my mom signed me up,” said Yuba City Charter School graduate Haley McDaniel.

There were many local schools taking part in the non-traditional commencement, from the larger ones like Yuba City, River Valley, Marysville and Lindhurst, to the smaller schools like Sutter, Wheatland, Live Oak and East Nicolaus to name a few. 

Officials estimated that over 400 graduates were celebrated by Adventure Church, SAYLove and many other organizations. 

“It’s a lot better than not having anything at all,” said SAYlove founder Jeff Stephens. “This is a graduation like no other.” 

East Nicolaus senior Shaye Wininger said she was thrilled to have a stage to walk across with her friends. She had about five or six with her at the drive-through, including lifelong friends Sophia Dunlap, Sierra Drake and Maddie Meder. 

Wininger said they all took a picture together to commemorate the moment as 2020 graduates. As a student-athlete, Wininger had lost a lot of traditional memories due to the pandemic. 

She also learned a lot too, starting with an ability to adapt to a different way of learning. She said distancing learning using modern technology can be challenging but also satisfying, because in a way it’s a new normal. Wininger said she will transition to American River College to continue with her online education. 

“(She) has learned to be flexible and adaptable as a human being,” said Kara Wininger, Shaye’s mom and teacher at Cobblestone Elementary. 

The younger generation is learning a valuable life lesson with the ongoing pandemic – accepting what comes before you and being able to adjust. 

Marysville’s Hannah Phillips admitted that she thought COVID-19 would be taken care of in about two weeks. But as the months wore on, Phillips began to realize that she was going to miss out on some pretty great memories to close out high school. 

But it turns out that non-traditional ceremonies are not that much of a step down. 

“It was basically the same thing; just we’re not lined up in person,” said Phillips, after finishing her walk across the stage. “It’s the same principle.”


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