Mt. Ararat High School Class of 2020 graduates show off their diplomas during the graduation ceremony at Topsham Fairgrounds Sunday. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

TOPSHAM — Mt. Ararat High School’s newest graduates got hands on their diplomas Sunday during an outdoor graduation unlike any in the school’s history. 

The ceremony was held in the center of the Topsham Fairgrounds racetrack and was broadcast over a local radio station. Groups of about 40 students wearing gowns and face masks waited near the stage until they were called to get their diploma.

Instead of shaking hands with Principal Donna Brunette, they bumped elbows. Families watched from their vehicles, honking horns and ringing cowbells to show their approval.

“As I stand here today, I can’t help but look around at how odd this all is,” said Fay O’Donnell, one of the class officers who spoke during the ceremony. “If someone had told me on March 13 that it would be my last day learning inside of Mt. Ararat High School and that graduation would be held at the Topsham Fairgrounds demolition derby track, I would have called you crazy. ”

The coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close to students in mid-March to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Seniors lost their spring sports season, prom, in-person award ceremonies and finishing high school together in one building.

Stephanie Whittingham helps her son, Thomas Whittingham, get his cap and gown on before the Mt. Ararat High School graduation ceremony Sunday. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

Alexa Eaton said seniors realized that because of the pandemic, they wouldn’t get to celebrate all they’d accomplished in the way they had envisioned.

Yet, in the midst of the health crisis, “we’ve learned to adapt to unfamiliar routines and to embrace the alternatives,” Eaton said. “We’ve been forced to come up with creative solutions, as we’ve had no other choice. These skills are going to be helpful in the long run, because we never know what life’s going to throw at us.”

The graduates also remembered a former classmate who didn’t get to join them for the celebration. Logan Sweet of Bowdoinham died from viral myocarditis at 6 years old in 2008. Sweet, whose parents attended the graduation ceremony, loved butterflies. Former classmates from Bowdoinham released butterflies during the ceremony.

The ceremony also paid tribute to the school’s longtime band director Allen Graffam, who died of cancer in May.

Cody Holman hoists classmate Cam Wallace into the air after the two graduated from Mt. Ararat High School Sunday. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

 

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