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Unique commencement will let community honor GHS grads


May 28, 2020
Gilford High School is aiming to give a memorable ceremony to the Class of 2020, giving the whole community a chance to celebrate the class.

Earlier this month, GHS announced it would hold a drive-in commencement for the senior class at Gunstock followed by a car parade through Gilford and Gilmanton.

"This is going to be a memorable graduation for all of our seniors and families in many different ways, for good ways," said GHS Principal Anthony Sperazzo. "Because of the pandemic, we aren't able to provide that traditional graduation."

Sperazzo said under the circumstances it won't be the equivalent of the traditional graduation but want to deliver something they hope will make the members of the class feel special.

The school talked with students a few times and met with families over Google Meet to talk about a number of options for graduation. Overall students were opposed to having a virtual ceremony.

"The students said we don't want to do anything virtually. We heard that loud and clear: they wanted something in person," Sperazzo said.

The plan went toward having a drive-in event at an outdoor facility. Ideas for the venue included the Weirs Drive-In or Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion, though after further review neither of these would work out.

Ultimately, the event was scheduled at Gunstock.

"Gunstock is a beautiful venue with the pond right there, mountains in the backdrop," Sperazzo said. "We feel it is a great place to recognize our seniors and to honor them."

Sperazzo said the seniors have been really supportive of the graduation plans and have been happy they have been able to organize something.

Graduation will take place on Friday, June 5 starting at 4 p.m. Sperazzo said they wanted to schedule the ceremony so they would have plenty of daylight for the festivities.

The ceremony is limited to one or two cars per graduate for the graduates themselves and those close to them. The cars will line up in the Gunstock parking lot. The ceremony will feature speeches by the class president, salutatorian, and valedictorian. After the speeches students will be called up individually to get out of their vehicles and walk up to get pictures with their diplomas. The ceremony will be broadcast over the radio and livestreamed, seniors will be able to get a copy of it.

After the graduation, cars will form a procession and parade through Gilford and Gilmanton escorted by police cars and fire trucks.

The parade will leave Gunstock and go down Cherry Valley Road, then turn onto Belknap Mountain Road and through the village. They will then go onto Goodwin Road, Hoyt Road, Wild Acres Road, Liberty Hill Road, Swain Road, Cotton Hill Road, and Frank Bean Road into Laconia. The parade will then move into Gilmanton, going down Route 107, onto Route 140, and end at the Gilmanton School.

Sperazzo said they hope a lot of people will be along the parade route, though socially distanced and staying safe.

"We're asking for the communities of Gilford and Gilmanton to come out and support these seniors in a safe manner," Sperazzo said. "It's an opportunity for us to show our support and how we feel about our seniors and what they're missing out on."

Sperazzo said with missing prom, assemblies, and other events, "They've been robbed of those memories."

"To have people line the parade route I think would say a lot to those 110 seniors," Sperazzo said.

Seniors will pick up their caps and gowns the Wednesday before graduation, where they will also drop off supplies and equipment such as Chromebooks, athletic uniforms, instruments, and others. The seniors will also get a gift on their way out and will also receive the time capsules they made in fourth grade.

Senior awards night will be a prerecorded video that will be posted the day before graduation. Representatives from different scholarships will announce the winners.

"We have many business partners and community partners that support us and our families with donations," Sperazzo said. "We would feel it's important to continue this for our seniors."

Educators and families have been doing what they can to make the seniors feel special during this time. A few weeks ago, staff and families planted signs on seniors' lawns recognizing them.

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