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Alternative Graduation Ideas to Celebrate the Class of 2021

Last spring, we covered creative ideas to celebrate graduating seniors at a time when nearly all schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While many schools and districts have now returned to full in-person instruction, others continue to use hybrid models or fully virtual models.

This post features some ideas for celebrating graduating seniors at a time when social distancing still remains necessary.

Live-streaming graduation ceremonies

Although most high schools are holding some type of in-person commencement ceremony, These events may come with attendance restrictions to allow for ample social distancing. For friends and family members unable to attend the in-person event, schools and districts can use live-streaming platforms to give them the ability to watch from a distance.

The ceremony can be streamed live online on Vimeo, Facebook or YouTube—as well as on local TV stations, in some cases. It can also be worthwhile to provide each graduating senior with a copy of the video and post the video to YouTube so that families can watch again in the future.

Social media celebrations

Last spring, Iowa’s Storm Lake Community School District created a cool social media template to highlight each member of the Class of 2020. Below is an example. Each day, the district posted to Facebook and Twitter a customized version of this graphic for each student. The same can be done this year to complement a limited in-person ceremony.

celebrate graduates online

To make this happen, district staff reached out to students’ families, asking for a photo of when they were young and a more recent photo (usually a senior picture). Between the two images, the student provides a short reflection of what they’ve learned during their K-12 academic careers.

Senior ‘Shoutouts’

Many schools are working with the local news media to publicly celebrate the accomplishments of seniors in new ways. This can take the form of a daily or weekly “Senior Shoutout,” through which a local media outlet can take a few seconds to share an achievement or a fun fact about a member of the Class of 2021.

Here’s an example from a TV affiliate in Greenville, South Carolina:

Lawn signs honoring graduates

Many schools have been providing seniors with lawn signs to display in their yards or windows each spring for years. This can be an especially nice gesture during our current times. Schools can make this happen with a simple design and by working with a local print shop.

We’ve even seen some businesses step up and donate these signs as part of their efforts to support their communities during COVID-19.

‘Light Up the Stadium’ events

During these brief events, schools turn on their stadium lights, with students and families invited to stay in their vehicles and take part in a demonstration of solidarity. Some have volunteers passing out popcorn and beverages, while music plays from the stadium’s PA system. The principal or another staff member may also give a brief address celebrating seniors.

One fun idea we’ve seen is lighting up the stadium for 21 minutes, from 8 to 8:21 p.m. — or 20:21 in military time. Whatever you do, just make sure everyone knows to maintain social distancing when they come to watch!

The above examples highlight just a few of the creative ways schools and districts are celebrating their graduating seniors in all new ways during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us.

Learn more and find free templates for communicating during COVID-19 by visiting our Coronavirus Communication Resource page. If you would like further guidance on how you can best reach your school district stakeholders now and in the future, contact the Donovan Group.

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