Millis Celebrates Students with Parade and In-Person GraduationJul 01, 2020 08:36AM ● By Aidan Poole
In addition to the parade, Millis High School will hold an in-person ceremony on July 30th at the high school football field. Photo by J.D. O’Gara
Despite setbacks due to COVID-19, Millis High School continues to honor graduating students with a town-wide parade, a one-year reunion banquet, and an in-person graduation.
When Robert Mullaney, Millis High School principal for 13 years, realized that COVID-19 safety measures would deprive the graduating class of their typical celebrations, he was disheartened. “I’ve experienced nothing like this in my career,” said Mullaney, referring to delaying graduation and cancelling student events. Despite this setback, he is determined to hold an in-person graduation ceremony for students and their families on Thursday, July 30 at 6 p.m. on the high school’s football field. Valedictorian Olivia McClary and Salutatorian Alexi Vaillancourt will address their class at graduation.
Mullaney explained that the school’s inability to hold annual in-person celebrations, like the senior banquet, scholarship night, and class day, has inspired Millis High School’s 91 graduating seniors to find innovative ways to celebrate their achievements that are mindful of social distancing. The students “reacted to a bummer in the best way possible,” said Vaillancourt, also a co-president of her graduating class.
The poster child for this innovative mindset was the “Rolling Rally,” held on June 4 at 6 p.m., in which students from the graduating class took part in a town-wide parade led by the Millis Police Department and the Millis Fire Department. The police and firefighters honked their horns and flashed their lights through town, followed by graduating seniors in cars brightly decorated with posters and balloons. Many students wore Millis High School branded gear as they waved to the many family and friends who cheered along the roadside. After more than an hour,, the students returned to Millis High School to a bonfire monitored by firefighters. Mullaney said students were encouraged to bring old testing papers to fuel the flames earlier that day. Vaillancourt said the parade was a “ten out of ten,” and Mullaney said he’d consider making it a yearly tradition.
Mullaney, pleased by the support he received from the Millis community during the parade, hopes to keep annual events like class day and scholarship night alive this year using a virtual format. Scholarship night was shared on Monday, June 15 at 6 p.m. as a prerecorded video. He also aims to postpone the graduating seniors’ annual banquet by a year, turning the tradition into a one-year reunion for students.
Although handling COVID-19 was unprecedented for Millis High School employees, students believe they’re doing everything possible to support seniors. “I think they’ve done a great job valuing our opinions … considering the circumstances,” said graduating senior Abby Messias about the school’s efforts. John Pateuk, another graduating senior, praised the school’s superb communication with students, saying they receive emails twice a week.
Gretchen Barrett, a mother of a graduating Millis High School senior, also praised the school for its wealth of emails and newsletters updating the community. However, she felt that “they could have done more” to celebrate her daughter and the other students’ graduation year.