On the day of her graduation, Trinity Clark walked a stage that was set up in the band room of the Ucluelet Secondary School (USS). Outfitted in a flowing red dress, twenty of her closest family members proudly watched as she accepted her high school diploma in front of a video camera. The recording would be sent to those who couldn’t attend because of physical distancing measures that are in place due to the ongoing pandemic.
Clark was one of 16 graduates who were given a time slot to walk the stage. Unlike every other year, the graduating class was not allowed to celebrate together.
“It was kind of anticlimactic,” said Clark of her final year of high school. “I do feel like most of the excitement was taken away [by COVID-19].”
Roshell Bob shared Clark’s sentiment and said, “It’s not really how I hoped it would end.”
The uncertain times meant that graduation plans at the school didn’t come together until “last minute,” said Clark. It left her wondering if it was going to happen at all.
“We usually have a big celebration and go on a camping trip for grad party,” she said. “So it was definitely a lot different than what we had anticipated working our way up towards grad.”
But one month ago a plan was set it motion.
To do something special for the students, USS principal Carol Sedgwick and the school’s staff made personalized banners for each student from the class of 2020. Their names and graduation photos were hung from light poles in town. It was a token to acknowledge the hurdle the graduates had to get through in the face of COVID-19.
The unprecedented times were “very stressful” for the students, the parents and for the faculty, Sedgwick said.
“We didn’t have a rule book or training for this,” she said.
Unable to have a big ceremony, the high school graduates were given their own parade through the streets of Ucluelet. Led by the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade, sirens rang through town, as vehicles echoed with honking horns.
Community members lined the streets and cheered for the graduates as they waved from the back of their parent’s pickup truck, or from the inside of a decorated boat that was towed on a trailer.
“It was really great to see so many people come out,” said Clark. “I even think I saw some tourists and visitors.”
The procession ended at the Amphirite Point Lighthouse, where professional photographer, Douglas Ludwig, met them for photos. The young graduates’ dresses were vibrant against the muted west coast skies.
While the event didn’t carry on as an overnight camping trip like it traditionally would have, Clark said the one-off graduation parade would remain memorable.
“Seeing so many people was a really great feeling,” she said. “It was a fun experience for us all.”