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‘Extremely resilient’ McNally High School grads find special way to celebrate

Click to play video 'McNally High School grad 2020 with a twist' McNally High School grad 2020 with a twist
WATCH: Thanks to COVID-19, high school graduations couldn't continue as normal — but as Sarah Ryan reports, both teachers and students found creative ways to celebrate the milestone together. – Jun 23, 2020

Teachers and students from McNally High School celebrated graduation a bit differently Friday, thanks to the ongoing pandemic.

Instead of the typical commencement at the Jubilee Auditorium, they held a drive-thru grad in the Edmonton school’s parking lot.

“This year, with the new health guidelines in place, we’ve had to be creative and we’ve had to rethink grad,” explained principal Lisa Wright.

Read more: Jasper honouring grads in a different way during COVID-19 pandemic

Staff and students worked together to come up with a creative solution to mark the milestone.

“When the news of the pandemic broke out, our graduates were disappointed, and understandably so.

“This grad is really special because these students have really risen to the challenge and been extremely resilient in a time that’s really complex,” she explained.

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The students and their immediate family members drove into the parking lot and were each handed a personalized box. A grad cap, notes from teachers, keepsakes, awards and even scholarships cheques were inside boxes.

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Grads find new ways to celebrate in the pandemic – Jun 21, 2020

More than 380 students are graduating from McNally this summer.

After receiving their boxes, the students got out to have their photos taken with their new caps as they walked across an outdoor stage.

Read more: Coronavirus: Calgary class of 2020 celebrates physically distanced graduation in backyard

Supporters snapped photos from their vehicles as teachers cheered on the new grads.

“Although COVID changed a lot of things for us, COVID never changed how proud we are of them and their accomplishments,” Wright said.

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For many of the students, the drive-thru graduation marked their first return to school since March.

“Doing the walk through, seeing everybody for the first time in a while, it was amazing, just to see their faces,” explained grad committee member Taylor Rousu.

It’s also, fittingly, their final day.

“There’s a finality to it. This is the last time we’re going to be here as students.”

Rousu said even after-grad celebrations have changed due to coronavirus. She plans to have dinner with her family and then meet a few classmates outside.

“My friends and I are getting together for a social distancing lawn party. We’re each getting our own individual little pizzas,” she laughed.

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Read more: ‘I don’t wake up excited’: Canadian high school grads cope with possibly axed ceremonies

Ruosu said for the most part, she had fun finishing her schooling from home.

“I was almost grateful for it because it’s so unique. No one has ever done it before.”

She thinks the experience taught her some valuable lessons, including how to manage her time and work without much structure.

“You’ve really got to live every day to the fullest. You can’t just waste an entire day watching TV or sitting on the couch. You really have to make something of it,” Rousu explained.

She’s appreciative of all the efforts her teachers put into this special graduation.

“Everything here is going to last in my memory for so long,” she said.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better grad.”