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Hightstown High School students to have virtual graduation

Graduation Day, which is the day that the Hightstown High School Class of 2020 has been waiting for since kindergarten, is nearly here – but it won’t be exactly what they had been expecting.

The traditional send-off at the CURE Insurance Arena in Trenton has been canceled because of COVID-19, but East Windsor Regional School District officials have plans to make up for it.

Hightstown High School Principal Dennis Vinson Jr. said that ever since Gov. Phil Murphy closed down the schools and students embarked on distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “it was always our hope to hold an in-person graduation to honor our graduates.”

But since the schools remain closed and in-person graduation ceremonies will not be an option until the summer, Hightstown High School officials are planning to hold a virtual graduation ceremony.

The decision to hold a virtual graduation ceremony was a very difficult one, but it was made with the safety of students, staff, families and the community in mind, Vinson said.

“We are still proceeding with a special, semi-virtual [graduation] event which will provide each senior a unique and memorable way to mark their high school graduation with their loved ones during this time,” Vinson said.

“We know how much this class has lost and want to provide them with a ceremony during what is normally the ‘season of graduation’ in June. They deserve every opportunity to be celebrated,” he said.

To that end, Vinson has arranged for a staggered individual photo/video event that will allow each student to walk across an outdoor stage and receive a diploma. Parents and guardians are welcome to come onto the stage to present the diploma to their graduate, Vinson said.

It is expected to take about eight days to record the event, as nearly 400 seniors are expected to participate in the event between June 1 and 10.

Replicating a traditional in-person graduation ceremony, the remarks and speeches by administrators and school district officials will be recorded and included in the virtual video of the graduation ceremony.

The plan is to upload the video onto Hightstown High School’s YouTube channel and play it at 6 p.m. June 18, which would have been the school’s graduation day at the CURE Insurance Arena in Trenton.

The Hightstown High School PTO also has sought to make it up to the Class of 2020, who missed another tradition – the senior prom and the after-prom party that it sponsors.

“We may not be able to give you the ‘after prom’ party that you have been waiting for years to attend, and we are as disappointed by this as you are. We did our best to think creatively and figure out how to hold the prize section of ‘after prom’ for you virtually,” the PTO wrote.

The solution is a raffle that ensures that each senior receives a prize. The prizes range from a cookie pillow and $25 in Starbucks gift cards to a pillow that says “Video games ruined my life” and a $20 gift card to Walmart.

Eight lucky seniors will win colorful beach towels and $30 in Subway gift cards, and another senior will walk away – virtually, of course – with a basketball net trash can and a basketball.

Meanwhile, the Senior Spotlight on the Hightstown High School webpage allows seniors to share something about themselves – from Radha Ratanpara’s admission that her favorite memory of Hightstown High School was the week of the pep rally and all the school spirit, to Heather Muniz’s favorite memory of the Hightstown High School junior prom.

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