The Windermere church wanted to give graduates their moment on the stage after the COVID-19 pandemic forced high schools to cancel or postpone their ceremonies.
Leaders at Family Church, in Windermere, decided they weren’t going to let the COVID-19 pandemic ruin graduation for their high school seniors, and they planned one in their sanctuary that adhered to social-distancing guidelines. They opened it up to the community, as well, and any local graduates whose schools weren’t holding traditional commencement exercises this month could participate.
“We’re (trying) to give them that graduation walk that they normally would have at this time,” Mike Flynn, student pastor, said. “We want to make it as special as we can as they do that walk.”
Twenty-nine students gathered in the church’s gymnasium Friday, May 22, all positioned six feet apart and wearing caps and gowns representing their schools. Before walking to the sanctuary, they all had a chance to ceremoniously toss their cap in the air.
“Pomp and Circumstance” played while one by one, the graduates crossed the church stage as their name, high school and future plans were read aloud.
Lead Pastor Chuck Carter spoke to the graduates and their families.
“This graduating class is going to be known as the corona class,” he said. “But my prayer is that … they’ll stand out for what they’ve gone through.”
These graduates won’t just accept the new reality but will define it, he said.
The church gave each graduate a gift bag with a Class of 2020 T-shirt; a picture frame; and a book, “How to Become Wise,” written by Doris Mitchell Lisemby, a 102-year-old church member. A festive backdrop gave students a chance to take photos with their families.
The ceremony was streamed live Friday night and replayed Monday so family members in other parts of the state and country could take part.
Family Church acknowledges its seniors every year but wanted to make this year’s program extra special because of the pandemic.
Participating were Lindsey Lewis, Sierra Mancuso, Bianca Manneck, Daniel Tate and Valerie Tate, of Dr. Phillips High School; Kassie Kimpel, Matthew Puchalski, Kayla Richard and Elijah Young, of Foundation Academy; Christy Bartel, Jacob Islas and Finn Wright, homeschooled; Abigail Adamson, of Legacy Charter High School; Justin Pittman, of Ocoee High School; Alex Green, Briana Quiroz, Julissa Quiroz, Lauren Miller and Tatiana Quiroz, of Olympia High School; Alejandra Rodriguez, Amanda St. George, Ashley St. George, Tyler Evans, of West Orange High School; and Deyaneira Albelo, Jeff Andrew Demetrio, Luis-Jose Diaz, Julia Kendall, Gian Khawan and Helen Tamulonis, of Windermere High School.