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Members of the Branford High School Class of 2020 joined in a special car parade around the building on June 8. Here, assistant principal Stephanie Byrd adds bubbles to the celebration and helps principal Lee Panagoulias greet a vehicle decorated for senior Karly King. Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
While they can't safely gather as a group of about 240 classmates right now, the Branford High School (BHS) Class of 2020 experienced a special senior send-off that helped bring them together with their school, faculty and friends on June 8: a drive-through car parade around the BHS building. The parade drew a steady line of decorated vehicles arriving to participate over the course of the two-hour event window.
The night to remember was organized by BHS Assistant Principal Stephanie Byrd with Assistant Principal Joe Brigante, Dean of Students Dianne Dadio and BHS Class Advisors Alicia Loesche and Chris Stonier. Seniors celebrated in decorated vehicles with rolled down windows, open sunroofs and shared space in convertible that started pulling into BHS at 6 p.m. on June 8. Among the first to greet them were Byrd, together with BHS principal Lee Panagoulias, Dadio and the BHS Hornet mascot (a close personal friend of Brigante); who kicked things off by dancing to the music coming over the loud speakers outside the school.
Faculty and staff wearing their best school spirit gear, as well as protective face masks, spread out at several stops around the school. The seniors drove through bubbles and were cheered on by teachers waving pom poms as they arrived at tables with give-aways and party favors passed into car windows. Staff gave shout-outs, danced along with kids in cars and delighted in seeing each vehicle decked out with seniors' high school and college colors, messages of thanks, and signs pointing to where they're headed next in life.
Byrd said the parade came together because it was something members of the senior class had asked for when the administration was working with them to develop special graduation programming in response to COVID-19.
"I think these kids have lost so much, and this is just something we can do to celebrate and recognize them. They came to us early on and said they wanted a parade," said Byrd. "And so to see it really happening, to see the smiles on their faces as they drive by – it's priceless."
Panagoulias thanked his administrators for pulling the event together for the senior class.
"One of the things that the seniors told us is the small things matter, and we want to go out of our way to try an put every celebration together for them," said Panagoulias.
Panagoulias said he hoped the BHS Class of 2020 felt the support of not only the school's faculty and staff, but that of the entire Branford community on their way to the parade that night.
"So much about graduation is the community coming together to celebrate the kids; and that's what you're seeing around town tonight," said Panagoulias.
The next celebration set for the BHS Class of 2020 is commencement. Seniors have selected from one of two options for their commencement ceremony. Some have elected to participate in a June 14 and June 15 part virtual/part drive-up event at BHS. Others have indicated they will participate in an Aug. 3 group commencement program to be developed as allowed by the latest COVID-19 executive orders of Gov. Ned Lamont.