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La Center Class of 2020 takes to the streets for graduation parade

LA CENTER — The streets of La Center were awash in the high school colors of blue and white Saturday as seniors marked the end of an era with a graduation parade.

The coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on traditional graduation ceremonies across Washington state, causing the cancellation or delay of the traditional pomp and circumstance for high school seniors.

“This pandemic, it’s so sad,” La Center High School principal Carol Patton said. “Our seniors had dreams they were looking forward to, then everything came to an abrupt halt.”

But high schools around Clark County, including La Center, are finding creative ways to celebrate their departing students. About 100 graduates gathered at the high school Saturday afternoon for a car procession past the elementary and middle school campus, through town and around surrounding neighborhoods. Police and fire officials led the parade while onlookers watched, and vintage military vehicles also joined in the celebrations.

Beth Marshall, the school’s registrar and adviser to the senior class, said she hoped the parade offered her students some of the closure they’re looking for at the end of the year. District officials are optimistic for a more traditional ceremony in August — assuming Clark County makes it to the final phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s gradual reopening plan by then.

“We’ll do what we can,” Marshall said.

Seniors were glad for the opportunity to celebrate. They hugged friends they’ve not been able to see in months and said goodbye to staff.

Students gathered in the parking lot under pouring rain to affix signs and balloons to their vehicles. One driver wrapped a mask around the front of a truck. Several students chucked candy at children watching the parade at the nearby elementary school campus.

“It’s crazy,” student body president Alison Brown said. Brown, 17, will attend Oregon State University’s Cascades campus in Bend, Ore., where she plans to study art, media and technology. “We never thought this is how it would go.”

Ceanna Johnston, 18, was disappointed not to celebrate her achievements in person. Johnston, who plans to become an electrician, was a class valedictorian. Nonetheless, she was grateful for the parade.

“The community really came together on this,” she said.

Johnston isn’t worried about the future, though. If anything, this is a good reminder to take even the worst circumstances in stride.

“Not everything goes as planned,” she said.


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