By STEPHANIE BERNABA Normal graduation plans were upended this year due to the pandemic, but the Cranston High School West community found a new way to gather in celebration of the members of its class of 2020 over the weekend. Graduating seniors Makayla
Normal graduation plans were upended this year due to the pandemic, but the Cranston High School West community found a new way to gather in celebration of the members of its class of 2020 over the weekend.
Graduating seniors Makayla Vieira, Abigail Royal, Victoria Mantia, Isabella Tavares, and Cameron Alves organized and led Saturday’s Senior Motorcade under the guidance of School Committee members and with the support of Mayor Allan Fung and the Cranston Police Department.
“This event might become a new tradition for our seniors going forward,” Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse said. “It would be one positive which was born out of triumph over the hardship that has been 2020. We wish our Cranston West seniors all the best as they head out into the world.”
The caravan gathered in the school’s parking lot, with families registered in advance. Cars were lined up at 10 a.m., and ahead of the start of the procession, Vieira addressed the crowd briefly with the help of Lite Rock 105’s Heather and Steve.
Many students were dressed in caps and gowns and had decorated their vehicles with posters, streamers, tulle, flowers, balloons and signs featuring the likenesses of the graduates. Drivers honked, students blew air horns, and bystanders clapped and waved. Some cars had signs identifying the colleges their students would be attending in the fall.
The motorcade made its way out to Wayland Avenue, turned down Cranston Street, and returned to the school.
Over 130 cars full of graduating seniors and their families participated in the event. Administrators, City Council and School Committee members, and Fung and his wife, Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, were among those in attendance, waving their congratulations from the front of the school.
Lite 105’s Steve Donovan, acting as the event’s emcee, shouted out seniors and their families and kept the crowd on its toes with an air horn.
Donovan acknowledged the collective difficulty COVID-19 has created for students, teachers and families, and shared about his participation in the event: “I think it’s exactly what everyone needs. The kids graduated and it was awesome. It feels good to be a small part of that, to help.”
School Committee member and West football coach Vincent Turchetta explained that he was supportive of a celebration, and acknowledged the challenges of the past year, highlighting students’ and parents’ gratitude to for the ability to come together and celebrate in some way, even if it’s untraditional.
“They’re appreciative they can do it,” Turchetta said. “Because they didn’t think they were going to have a choice to do any of this.”
“This really exemplifies how well a community to get together and actually bring some sort of satisfaction to students not getting their traditional ceremony,” Cranston West Principal Thomas Barbieri said after the event. “It’s great to know how well parents and students and community leaders can come together and do something special in not-so-special times.”
Barbieri also expressed gratitude to the Cranston Police Department, participating School Committee members and the parents of the event’s organizers.
Fung offered his congratulations, stating he was “very excited to be able to give our graduating seniors a final send-off at their school.” He said he was also grateful that students had the opportunity to “let loose one last time in a shout of Falcon pride.”
“I did not plan to see so many families lined up on the route to cheer us on, and that gave me such an incredible feeling,” Vieira said after the event. “I am so happy this day had a huge and memorable turnout!”
A similar procession for Cranston East’s class of 2020 is scheduled for this coming weekend. Additionally, virtual graduation ceremonies filmed last week for the city’s high schools are scheduled to be released in the coming days.