EDINBURG — Hundreds of students from the Class of 2020 dropped by Edinburg High for one of their last visits Thursday to pick up their caps and gowns, capping off their senior year and wishing high school a fond farewell.
Usually a routine affair, picking up the graduation garb was turned into an unconventional drive-thru milestone for seniors whose final year in high school was upended by the coronavirus pandemic.
Students’ faces lit up when they saw staff and administrators from their school who they haven’t seen for months. Parents who won’t see their kids get dressed up for prom beamed when their children were passed gowns through the window. The more rambunctious kids decorated their cars with balloons and ribbons and posters, honking while they came through the line.
If it wasn’t for the masks, it would’ve felt like any other pep rally.
“They were very excited to come on campus,” Principal Yesenia Molina said. “The community really embraced it, the parents are excited and the kids were very excited to be celebrating their senior year, because it came to a complete halt right after spring break.”
Molina said in normal times students would pick up their caps and gowns at lunchtime without much fanfare. She said turning the errand into something more was important for a senior class that won’t be able to experience most of the hallmarks of their final year in high school.
“Them coming together as a group, as a class, even if it’s just curbside in front of the school, I think it meant a lot to them,” she said.
Molina considers herself close to her student body; she says she knows all of her students and seeing them again for the first time in six weeks was an emotional experience.
“I miss them very much. The whole experience has been surreal. The building is very different, it doesn’t have their laughter, it doesn’t have the energy that a school needs,” she said. “To see them — oh my God, my heart was full. I have not seen those kids in over a month, and to see them and to see their parents, and everyone waving and being excited, it really brings it full circle.”
Several of the students who came through the cap and gown line Thursday proved that they were just as excited to see Principal Molina. Dana Luevano, the class president, met several other students at a Stripes nearby before parading through campus in a caravan. They honked and shouted at Molina, passing her flowers and chocolate and gifts through their car windows.
The drive-thru, Luevano said, was an opportunity to recognize someone who’s done a lot for the Class of 2020, especially in the past month and a half.
“For the past four years she’s made the experience at high school wonderful, because she does anything to provide for her students,” she said. “Ever since this situation started, she makes us feel like we’re not alone due to everything being canceled.”
The Class of 2020 learned that they will have at least one more chance to say goodbye Thursday, at least at ECISD. The district announced Thursday that it plans to hold outdoor in-person graduations over the summer, based on recommendations from Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency.
“Graduating from high school is a tremendous accomplishment,” ECISD interim Superintendent Gilbert Garza Jr. wrote in a release. “I am excited to announce that the Edinburg CISD Board of Trustees, administrators and principals are preparing graduation ceremonies to tentatively take place June 2 – June 5, 2020.”
The statement says that seniors will be issued two tickets for guests to join them at the ceremony and the event would conform with hygienic and social distancing guidelines.
“However, should COVID-19 cases increase in our area that require us to revert to more strict measures, we would have to reevaluate and possibly delay ceremonies,” Garza wrote.
Molina says she was happy to hear that news.
“If we can be a little part of bringing closure with these huge milestones in their young lives, then I’m very happy about that,” she said.