Tradition continues despite changes in graduation events

John Dupont
Graduates posed with their diplomas inside an empty gymnasium during a graduation ceremony.

The Iberville Parish School System’s first high school graduation ceremony during COVID-19 ceremony featured many facets of a traditional commencement exercise.

Graduates wore caps and gowns, and they walked along a stage amid music as they accepted their diplomas. Parents and some family members even watched and cheered, but the event lacked one crucial element – an audience.

“It’s different, but it’s much more personal,” Iberville Parish School Board Superintendent Arthur Joffrion said.

The class of approximately 60 graduates walked into the gymnasium, one senior at a time with family, to receive their diplomas after their school year ended abruptly when the pandemic forced school shutdowns statewide March 13.

Senior Jasmine Miller walked up to the stage as her family watched her accept her diploma from principal Addie Crochet.

“Pomp and Circumstance” blared on the speaker and the applause was spirited, although not nearly the volume heard in a jam-packed gymnasium.

“It’s really kind of surreal, but at the same time it feels like the same thing,” Miller said has she exited from the gym as part of the protocol after she received her diploma.

The process continued one graduate after another, while some waited and others who received their diplomas converged with friends outside.

School Board member Darlene Ourso, who represents the White Castle area, did not need any time to respond when asked if she would have ever envisioned that type of ceremony.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “These are unprecedented times, and you don’t know what the future holds, but it appears everyone is enjoying themselves and it’s very personable, so we appreciate all the hard work from the staff, White Castle, High School, in conjunction with the superintendent and his team to make this possible.”

It did not take away from the pride she has felt for her alma mater, where she has also coached for many years.

“I’ve been able to come back for this every year since I’ve been a school board member, so it brings back a lot of memories,” Ourso said. “I’ve always been proud to be a Bulldog and represent the White Castle community and Iberville Parish and to see young people come through here and be successful.”

The faculty and administration took a few steps to inject some normalcy into the graduation. Several activities took place to celebrate the grads, including a class night the school held outside to stay in compliance with social distancing.

“We were supposed to be outside again tonight, but weather did not cooperate,” Crochet said.

Despite the strange turn of events for this year’s graduation, parents remained cooperative every step of the way, the principal said.

“The parents were a blessing to work with, and they were happy with anything that made these kids feel appreciate and would make this event seem normal,” Crochet said.

Outside the gymnasium, 2017 WCHS graduate Marvell Asberry watched quietly as the 2020 class celebrated.

It all still seemed hard to believe, he said.

‘To say I graduated here three years ago and to see it’s come to this, and to see they still made the best of this situation is something amazing,” Asberry said. “I didn’t expect to see them walk in the gym, but to see them go through there, take pictures and have the actual graduation … they’re just missing the crowd.

“But the sense of accomplishment is still there, and that’s the most important thing for them,” he said.

Families celebrated outside, in compliance with social distancing guidelines, after graduation.