Santa Maria high school students graduate, both virtually and in person


In a series of unprecedented ceremonies—both virtual and drive-through—Santa Maria Joint Union High School District graduates got to experience double the fun over the weekend after the Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer loosened restrictions. The district graduated more than 2,000 seniors on June 4 and 5.

The district’s four high schools each held their own virtual and drive-through ceremonies. The pre-recorded virtual ceremonies featured speeches from the schools’ principals, valedictorians, salutatorians, and others, while the drive-through counterparts allowed students to receive their physical diplomas and do a brief walk while their families cheered them on.

HATS OFF A Righetti High School student receives their diploma before hopping back in the car with their supporters. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SMJUHSD
  • HATS OFF A Righetti High School student receives their diploma before hopping back in the car with their supporters.
Santa Maria High School’s virtual ceremony started with a message from the principal, followed by the national anthem sung by choir members. But it wasn’t just any national anthem rendition: The four students separately recorded videos of themselves singing their various parts, resulting in harmonious a capella with the virtual screen split into four.

Righetti High School also jumped at the opportunity for a musical split screen, this time on a much larger scale: the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association members each recorded themselves playing their part in the traditional pomp and circumstance graduation tune. Nearly 100 small screens, stitched together into the classic melody, kicked off the Warriors’ virtual festivities.

Delta High School’s video ceremony highlighted some of its scholarship recipients and highest achieving students. Pre-recorded videos show students receiving their awards at home during surprise visits from administrators.

Pioneer Valley High School’s short and sweet 22-minute virtual ceremony featured words from Principal Shanda Herrera, followed by speeches from students in both English and Spanish. The speakers recorded the ceremony on a decked out graduation stage, complete with plenty of emerald green and pale yellow, Pioneer Valley’s school colors.

The schools also held drive-through ceremonies in which students took the quintessential graduation walk to signify becoming a true graduate. Students and their families lined up in their cars. When it came each student’s turn, they would briefly exit the car to walk and receive their diploma as their supporters drove parallel to them, cheering from the socially distanced safety of their vehicle.

“It’s been very well received,” district Public Information Officer Kenny Klein said. “I don’t really have anything to compare it to: It’s a first-ever kind of thing for everybody, including me. But I do believe that it brought people together.” ∆

—Malea Martin

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