Class of 2020 celebrates graduation in a flurry of cheering and honking

Hundreds of cars circled around Palo Alto Wednesday to celebrate the Class of 2020's graduation in a replacement ceremony for a traditional graduation that could not take place due to safety precautions.

The ceremony consisted of a car parade, in which seniors stayed within their vehicles and drove along a set route which passed by each of the four participating high schools: Palo Alto High, Gunn High, Kehillah High and Castilleja School. Families, faculty and passerby lined the streets, cheering for the seniors as they drove by.

Wednesday’s ceremony comes following the rescheduling of this year’s Class of 2020 graduation to December due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced schools across the country to cancel graduation ceremonies. The parade was meant to give seniors a way to celebrate despite the lack of a traditional ceremony.

Although the car parade was not the typical graduation that most high school seniors received in past years, it was well-received by seniors regardless.

“It was really fun," senior Peter Graham said. "I honestly would love it way more than a graduation where you sit in the sun for four hours. This is way better.”

Supporters cheered on the senior class on as they drove by.

According to senior Jackson Druker, success of the parade was thanks in part to the amount of support that seniors received from family and passerby while out on the parade.

“I didn’t expect so many people to come out,” Druker said. “Just having so many people supporting us was really great.”

At Paly, teachers and faculty stood in a line along the sidewalk that stretched from the corner of El Camino and Embarcadero to the Paly tennis courts. They cheered the seniors on as their cars paraded past.

“We all needed this graduation to be able to celebrate and acknowledge that graduation’s really important,” Living Skills teacher Letitia Burton said. “So to be out here and making noise and meeting students that I know — or don’t know — and for the community to come out and celebrate, that’s just really important.”

AP Statistics teacher Daniel Nguyen acknowledged that this year’s parade was unlike any previous graduation, but wished for it to be special.

“I’m sad for these kids," Nguyen said. "They’re missing out on a lot but they’re going to be the only class that gets this parade for them to drive through, so it’s something just for them.”

Given the recent death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests against police brutality around the country, many chose to write social justice messaging on their cars next to the usual graduation inscriptions, and some held up signs about racial justice.

Many signs read, “Black Lives Matter,” and some urged people to sign petitions or otherwise call for social or political reforms.

Burton, who has long been an advocate for black students and students of color on campus, praised the social justice advocacy that she saw.

“It makes me feel like my Paly community is showing up for people like me, and for people who look like me, and for their black classmates or their neighbors,” Burton said.

Seniors hold signs in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Nguyen also applauded the initiative that the senior class showed in supporting racial justice organizations.

“That’s what Paly students are,” Nguyen said. “To see ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Enough is enough’ emblazoned on car after car — it makes it very proud to have been their teacher.”

“My hope and my prayer is that this generation — the class of 2020 — will be part of the change that needs to happen in this country,” Burton said.

Below are highlights from the parade.

Congratulations, Class of 2020!


Ethan Chen, Ethan Hwang, Amy Yu