By Chea Waters Evans

Charlotte Central School (CCS) graduation has elements that remain the same each year: elaborate stage setup with the wobbly white archway; balloons and more balloons; a cake from Mrs. Laberge; a song from the teachers; a slideshow that’s reliable for tears and awwwwws from the audience; the dance.

Though this year’s graduation had none of those things due to the coronavirus, it did have the most important thing: the graduates. Many have been at CCS since preschool, and many endured a challenge that on the first day of school would have been unimaginable. Graduation was held on Thursday, June 11, at the front of the school building, with streamers and a red carpet and a drive-through setup.

The students graduated with smiles on their faces, pulling up in family cars and hopping out to remove masks for a quick photo op, receiving their diploma and a goody bag from CVU, and then getting right back in the car. Parents and siblings beamed from back seats, taking photos and video through open windows.

The teachers were there, too—not too many at a time, per the governor’s instructions—wearing face masks, blowing bubbles, and singing along with the DJ who parked his booth on the library porch. They cheered every graduate as if they were the first one of the day. One teacher was overheard saying, “This is so surreal.”

Another teacher was overheard saying, “I keep wanting to cry.” It felt like a mixture of tears, of happiness for these bright students who are facing an uncertain future but with chins set for success; tears for all the traditions and fun they missed; tears for how truly strange it felt to have to say congratulations from afar when it felt like all the adults wanted to do was pull them close.

Photos by Chea Waters Evans