Tears, then smiles; Class of 2020 graduation video is underway

Jalynn Bruce, a member of the Mansfield Senior High Class of 2020, has her picture taken with family members on Thursday. Everyone was permitted to remove their masks briefly for the photo.

Tears filled Jalynn Bruce’s eyes Thursday, moments before it was her turn to cross the auditorium stage to receive her diploma as part of Mansfield Senior High School’s 2020 modified in-person graduation.

The emotion of the moment was as real as a traditional commencement. 

Jalynn dried her tears and smiled after comforting words from Assistant Principal Rob McQuate and a box of tissues provided by athletic director Kevin Porter.

She crossed the stage as instructed, picked up her diploma and smiled broadly at two video cameras placed in separate locations. Four family members and several school personnel cheered and applauded before she left the stage on the far side.

Jalynn was the 15th of 24 seniors – adorned in cap and gown --scheduled to cross the stage at 15-minute intervals on Thursday. Similar groups were slated for Friday, then again each day next week. 

When completed, the video will feature each member of the Class of 2020 receiving their diploma, along with pre-recorded remarks by valedictorian Addyson Van Houton, salutatorian Brianna English and class president Cam Todd. Principal Marinise Harris, Superintendent Stan Jefferson and board of education President Renda Cline also will speak.

A copy of the completed video will be provided to each graduate. It also will be placed on the district website, tygerpride.com, on May 23, the previously scheduled commencement date.

“It is going extremely well,” Ms. Harris said midway through Thursday’s tapings. “I think some of the kids were hesitant but once they saw what we were doing, their concerns went away.”

Senior High opted for the modified in-person graduation after social-distancing guidelines required by health officials and the governor prevented the traditional commencement program in Pete Henry Gym.

Each graduate is permitted to bring a maximum of four family members and/or friends to sit near the front of the auditorium while they walk across the stage. Everyone entering Senior High must wear masks and have their temperature taken before proceeding to the auditorium.

After their videotaped walk across the stage, each graduate has an individual photo taken, then one with their four guests.

Across the street from the high school, well-wishers cheered, played music and honked horns to salute graduates as they entered and left the building. Gina Boyd, an intervention specialist at Sherman Elementary, rang a bell and waved a colorful “Congratulations, Class of 2020” sign made by her 8-year-old daughter.

“I plan to be here most every day,” Boyd said.

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