The Mancos High School Class of 2020 graduated Friday evening to honking horns and blaring sirens.
As with its neighboring school districts, the Mancos ceremony took a unique format this year to comply with social distancing regulations from the coronavirus pandemic. It began with a car-based ceremony in the parking lot by the newly finished Performance Center before leading into a parade down Grand Avenue.
While the past few months have been wrought with unpredictable twists and turns, the 33 graduates will only come out stronger, all the speakers emphasized.
“You’ve learned valuable lessons that will serve you as you continue on your life’s path,” said secondary Principal John Marchino, who was the emcee for the ceremony. “The world around you is changing, and you can let things happen to you and be angry, or you can adapt and make changes to improve yourself and the world around you.”
After some weeks of debating commencement options, Mancos School District Re-6 administrators decided to hold a drive-in commencement. The parking lot was limited to grads and their families, who remained in vehicles until it was their turn to pick up their diplomas, in alphabetical order.
Despite the sudden burst of rain over Montezuma County earlier in the afternoon, the sun shone brightly for the ceremony, which was broadcast live by Mesa Media Productions on Facebook.
This year, students chose educators Nicole Gregersen and Amanda Zufelt to address the audience. The two had taught many of the students as kindergartners and first graders when they began teaching at Mancos schools.
They passed on some life lessons – including ones that applied to both the current coronavirus pandemic and first grade, like hand-washing and keeping your hands to yourself – along with reminding the graduates to continue experiencing wonder in their everyday lives and remain resilient.
“You were born on the heels of 9/11, went through school during a recession, and are now graduating during a pandemic,” Zufelt said. “You are no stranger to adversity, or what you may need to overcome. You understand that celebrations will have to wait, but oh, they will come.”
This year’s class valedictorian was Maya Powell and salutatorian was Hakayla Snow. After exiting their cars and approaching the podium, they recalled times the class had shared together, and told their fellow graduates to embrace the semester’s challenges.
“Tomorrow is a new opportunity,” Powell said. “Tomorrow is a chance to greet the situation head-on and realize this is not the end, but rather a new beginning. It is a chance to use what we have learned from this pandemic and apply it to the future.”
“I hope you look back on our time together with fondness, but I hope you all remember the best is yet to come,” Snow said.
After all graduates had received their diplomas, the cars departed from the parking lot to process down Grand Avenue, with blue and white balloons streaming and writing covering the vehicle windows. The Mancos Marshal’s Office and fire officials escorted the parade, and the graduates passed under a ladder bridge created by two fire trucks.