Colin Houle waits as his mother, Dawn Hagan, fixes his stole Sunday morning while her daughter, Emma Houle, looks on at the parking lot of Lisbon High School shortly before Colin’s graduation. Russ Dillingham / Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LISBON — While their classmates waited in the parking lot, small groups of graduating seniors took turns walking into Lisbon High School’s gym to collect their diplomas — capping a senior year turned on its head by a global pandemic.

Lisbon High School senior Justin “Rusty” Merrill shows off his state championship football ring Sunday morning at the school’s parking lot, as he waits with friend Izzy May to enter the gymnasium to receive their diplomas. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The 75 graduates later turned their tassels as a group in the parking lot.

Elise Madore, president of the Lisbon High School Class of 2020, said the ceremony was not everything students had hoped for over the past four years, but it was better than the original plan, which consisted only of a parade of cars. Students came together and pushed for an in-person ceremony so they could walk across the stage to get their diplomas.

“It’s a huge milestone,” Madore said, “and I think a parade isn’t enough to celebrate. This is the start of our futures, and a parade is not enough recognition.”

Jack Tibbetts, vice president of the Class of 2020, said during the ceremony he and his classmates have faced challenges in  finishing their high school education at home. Many people are sad or struggling because they cannot be around other people, Tibbetts said.

“Yes, it’s unfortunate, but at the same time, we can rise above.”


Tibbetts is entering the U.S. Air Force, but said the pandemic may delay those plans. Instead of leaving in September, it could be another six months to a year before he sets out on his own.

Lisbon High School senior Yvonne Ncuti receives a hug from her brother Sunday morning as her sister, obscured, and mother grab her flowers shortly after receiving her diploma in the school’s gymnasium. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

That is one of many unusual challenges students have faced this year, according to teacher and commencement speaker Ryan Bernard.

“No other senior class has ever faced the trials and tribulations that the Class of 2020 has faced this spring,” he said. “You will overcome these challenges and any challenge placed before you, and you will be successful in whatever you undertake.”

These students have the chance to be the next great generation, tasked with helping the country redevelop its identity and overcome this crisis, while facing countless other issues with empathy, cooperation and unity, Bernard said.

Class adviser Gretchen Ward said many faculty members came to help and celebrate graduates Sunday, “and I just think they’re happy they could all come together one final time.”

Ward said graduates did not get their prom or Project Graduation, but the school hopes to offer some sort of send-off party for the graduates later in the summer.

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