Seniors Despondent Over a Cancelled Graduation. What To Do?

seniors1Scarsdale High School teachers had a nifty solution – a surprise car parade. On Thursday, May 7th, Scarsdale High School teachers, wearing SHS-themed attire and maroon bead necklaces, paraded around the streets of Scarsdale to bring a bit of cheer to the homes of students. They blared the song “We’re All In This Together” from the canceled senior class musical High School Musical, and drove by in cars sporting balloons and markered-on supportive messages. At every house they visited, even if the student wasn’t home to be greeted, they placed on the senior’s lawn a sign with the words “SHS Seniors 2020 #allinthistogether” as a tribute to a school year ended early.

But how did this surprise come to fruition?

This event, out-of-the-blue as it seemed, had actually been planned for some time by the two senior class advisers – special education department chair Ms. Eileen Cagner and math teacher Mr. Alex Greenberg – in conjunction with several members of the senior class government and other faculty members, parents, and administrators.

The teachers were split into multiple teams and given lists of students to visit within a specified area. English teacher Mr. Stephen Mounkhall’s team, which visited houses near Fox Meadow, included friends Ms. Claussen, Ms. Bryant, Ms. Wright, Ms. Jakymiw and Mr. Viviano, and he wrote that he found the experience greatly rewarding, even when he did not know the student for whom he was cheering.

“We were energetic and laughing from the moment we met in the track lot to festoon our cars with streamers. We laughed the whole time (when we weren’t cheering). Sometimes we laughed at the absurdity of cheering at an empty house (not every student on our list was home); sometimes we laughed at hearing ‘We’re all in this together’ on repeat for 3 hours; sometimes we laughed because the people biking by were giving us strange looks; sometimes we laughed because we had not spent time with people outside of our immediate families for months, and even though our faces were mostly covered by masks, we still felt a strong connection.”

When visiting students he already knew, “the emotion felt like ‘I am glad that we are shouting for you, but I would much prefer a quiet conversation in my office’ mixed with pride, sadness, uncertainty, confusion and joy.”

“I was hoarse by the end of the three-hour journey that had taken us about one mile as the crow flies. I am pretty sure everyone in our group was hoarse. Mr. Bedoya and Ms. Warshowsky finished their list in another part of Scarsdale before we did, and they joined us for the last few houses, so we had even more honking horns and screaming teachers.”

Students on the receiving end of the festivity were just as grateful to be a part of the experience. SHS senior Izzy Lelis, who lives on a busy road in Scarsdale, was one of the first houses the teachers visited on May 7th but did not think of checking to see who was honking and cheering outside. She later walked out of the house and saw that the sign had been placed on her lawn, but the teachers had already left. Later in the afternoon, to her happy surprise, the teachers came back and cheered for her once again so she could experience it for herself.

“I was so grateful and it shows how much the teachers really care for their students and wanted to make this experience as best as it could be,” she wrote. “Everyone I talked to was just so happy and thankful for the effort they put forth behind the scenes to create this surprise for us because it made all the seniors feel celebrated and united, even though they can’t be physically together.”

SHS senior Rebecca Maude, one of the teachers visited by Mr. Mounkhall’s team, wrote that she was also thrilled by the visit.

“It literally made my weep and I couldn’t stop smiling and my dog wouldn’t stop barking. It was really nice to see three of my teachers that I had had in the past. The whole experience actually made me happy for once to be a 2020 senior despite everything we’re gonna miss.”

seniors3“We could not be more thrilled to have been able to individually honor each senior while also having a collectively shared experience with the entire Scarsdale community,” Ms. Cagner wrote in an email. “The students and families were so gracious and the smiles on their faces mirrored the ones on ours! This day will definitely go down as one of the highlights of my career.”

While COVID-19 has brought hardship to our community and other communities globally, it has also emphasized our positive spirits, goodwill, and optimism in the face of adversity. The car parade, for many of Scarsdale’s students, parents, and teachers, encapsulated that feeling perfectly.

The celebration isn’t going to end yet, either – the administration of SHS recently announced the creation of a special committee for senior events. "This committee has been charged with the collection and vetting of ideas from the community (teachers, parents and students) so that we can actively discuss and pursue options,” wrote Principal Kenneth Bonamo in a widely sent email. "The committee agenda includes discussions of Senior Options, our Awards Ceremony, Senior Day, Prom and Graduation. We have been discussing alternatives that include events with appropriate social distancing as well as those we may need if group gatherings of any size continue to be banned.”seniors4