October 21, 2021

A new kind of pomp

Cortland High grads experience a unique ceremony

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Mason Bellrose signs his name on a school bus Friday during Cortland High School’s graduation ceremony for the class of 2020.

The Cortland High School’s class of 2020 has had to deal with great changes during the coronavirus pandemic, but through it all, they have shown their resiliency, John Zarcone, the 11th and 12th-grade principal at Cortland High School, said Friday.

“When all is said and done and they look back how this whole thing went, they’re going to say, ‘We had it tough for some reasons, but we made it through,’” he said.

Zarcone and other school officials helped celebrate the 156 students of Cortland High School’s class of 2020, who graduated Friday in a fashion that hasn’t been seen before and may not be seen again.

Coronavirus restrictions prevented large gatherings, so graduates — split into four groups based on last name — arrived in cars with their families, exited their cars, signed their names on the windows of a school bus.

They then walked into the school auditorium, received their diploma — on a table — and exited out the other side to the courtyard.

Graduates did not shake hands with Superintendent Michael Hoose, who was overseeing his last graduation before retirement, or any other staff.

Hoose said the setup featured some positives not normally found in a traditional graduation, including allowing parents and relatives to get close to the auditorium stage to photograph their students.

The first student to experience this new style was Sheldon Crosby.

“It was pretty neat,” said Crosby, who hopes to attend trade school for plumbing or construction. “The way the auditorium was was pretty neat.”

Lyndsie Babcock, who was waiting in the bed of a pickup truck, said she enjoyed the unique circumstance, graduating during the pandemic.

“I think it’s pretty cool that this is like a once in a lifetime thing that’s going to happen,” she said.

Babcock, who will attend Keuka College to study occupational therapy and play basketball, said she will miss her time at the school.

“I’m going to miss all of my friends, obviously, but I’m ready to move on to the next chapter,” she said.

Lindsey Bush, who was also waiting in line in her car, said that the setup was better than what some other schools have had.

“We get to have six people (with us) and see some of our classmates,” said Bush, who plans to study physics and pre-engineering at Le Moyne College.

Joe Mack, the high school’s principal, said students learned how to be tough and resilient through the coronavirus.

“I think they’re going to be great leaders when they’re older,” he said. “They will be great contributors to society because they’ve been through some tough things.”