DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — Graduating seniors from Decatur’s two high schools got their moment in the spotlight on July 25, walking across the stage to accept their diplomas with well-wishers cheering them on.

The ceremony marked the end of the students’ high school careers, but the specter of coronavirus made the experience anything but traditional.

“It’s kind of sad that we had to go out like this,” said Ashanti Mann, an Eisenhower High School senior. “Having my family there was a pretty good experience, but it wasn’t the experience I was hoping for, you know, with my class there and everybody cheering you on.”

Mann was among a host of graduating seniors from Eisenhower and MacArthur high schools who signed up to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas in person, under certain restrictions.

Students had three dates to choose from — Saturday, Monday and Tuesday — with 20 graduates and four guests each fit into the available hour-long time slots.

Mann, 18, received her diploma around noon Saturday. According to Mann, students and their guests had their temperatures taken once entering the school. Families waited to enter the auditorium one group at a time, where the students were given their diplomas and family pictures were taken.

“I’m just very excited,” said Brandi Henderson, Ashanti’s mother. She proudly walked out of the building next to her daughter following the ceremony.

Mann said she recently was accepted to Western Illinois University and plans to study criminal justice and law enforcement while pursuing a minor in sociology.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment and she’s been through a lot,” Henderson said. “All I can say is she did it, she made it through.”

A total of 192 seniors graduated from Eisenhower this year, 68 of which have decided to walk across the stage and receive a diploma in person during one of the three available days. At MacArthur, 269 seniors graduated. According to MacArthur staff members on hand, 121 of the graduates had taken the walk as of Saturday afternoon.

“It was definitely weird, but I’m still glad they were able to figure out a way to recognize us for our accomplishments,” said Jurnee Flournoy, a graduating MacArthur senior. “It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve definitely overcome a lot.”

The 18-year-old honor student said a key takeaway during her high school experience was learning the value of time management. She’s continuing her basketball career at the college level, having signed Friday to play at Lincoln College.

No matter the school, the class of 2020 won’t soon forget the final year of their high school experience.

“I really think that the class of 2020 is a great and bright class,” Mann said. “We got through this whole situation. We’re still striving, we’re still getting through it and I really think we’ll be great in the future.”


Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review,