Photo by Trevor Smith: Eatonville Police Chief Jason LaLiberte leads the Eatonville High School class of 2020 in a parade through town on their last official day of high school, Friday.
Photo by Trevor Smith: Eatonville Police Chief Jason LaLiberte leads the Eatonville High School class of 2020 in a parade through town on their last official day of high school, Friday.

While the COVID-19 pandemic postponed a traditional graduation ceremony for Eatonville High School seniors, the Eatonville High School administrators wanted to do something special for their departing seniors.

For the first time, the EHS seniors participated in a senior graduation parade, Friday. Each senior was honored by their family, friends and community members as their vehicles traveled from the high school parking lot, down Mashell Avenue and then Washington Avenue as they headed out of down.

Eatonville Police Chief Jason LaLiberte and officer Shauna Anderson led the parade procession as seniors rode on top of cars, trucks, in the back of pick-ups, hung out of vehicle windows or just seated inside. Most of the vehicles in the parade were decorated with the senior’s photos, balloons and other festive decorations.

Parents were pleased the school honored their seniors with the parade.

“The parade was fantastic,” said Kylee Hutchings, whose daughter, Andrea, was among the participants. “It allowed us to invite family to cheer on our grads and give them a moment of town support, which is so important. So many of us love Eatonville and take pride in our kids' accomplishments. I hope they do it again.”

Bobby Lucht, whose daughter Brooklynn was in the parade, said the event was special for both the students and the parents.

“Well, with the pandemic changing the face of what a senior year looks like, it was great to see the seniors get the recognition they deserve,” Lucht said. “... The parade was a way the school district could get these kids on a stage in front of the town. I had to work Friday and wasn't sure I was going to be able to attend, but as the morning started for me, I told myself I wouldn't miss this for the world. I saw the faces of these seniors … some were ear to ear in excitement, and some were emotional with tears.”

Brooklynn Lucht said seeing all the town members at the parade and wishing the seniors well “felt unreal.”

“Never in my life would I have thought that we as the class of 2020 would have to go through something like this, but the support that we have had throughout this rough patch is amazing,” she said, adding she thanks everyone for their support and love. “Eatonville may be a small town but we all come together as one.” 

The parents also had nothing but kind words for the staff who organized the parade.

“I thank EHS for finding yet another way to celebrate the senior class of 2020,” said Lynne Van Cour, whose senior, Chris, was in the parade. “They have made great efforts in trying to normalize this very special time in their lives, which should be their most memorable. The parade gave the students a visual of the love and support they have from this great community. Eatonville strong! I’m looking forward to the senior weekend planned for them in August and the Aug. 9 in-person graduation at St. Martins University.”

EHS senior class adviser Mike Moeller said the high school plans to host a full graduation ceremony at 3 p.m. Aug. 9 at St. Martin's University in Lacey, following county and state health guidelines, if it is permitted by the state.

“We looked at a variety of different graduation options for our seniors, but when talking to the seniors and parents of seniors, it was almost universal that they would prefer to postpone until we could put together a regular ceremony, rather than try to piece something together virtually or cancel it altogether,” Moeller said.

He said if the graduation ceremony is not permitted because of COVID-19 rules by the time August approaches, staff will consider options for then. Other plans for that weekend include a class of 2020 dance Aug. 7 and a senior class barbeque lunch on Aug. 8.

Moeller said high school staff had been considering different ways to recognize seniors that would suit the students and the community when a couple of students pitched the idea of the parade to him. He said EHS Principal Amy Sturdivant and Vice Principal Sheelah Ridgeway agreed it would be a great send off to the seniors.

“We have such a supportive staff and administration at EHS who really love our students, and anything we can do to try to make the end of the year a little more memorable for our graduates, we really want to put a real effort into making it happen,”Moeller said.

Moeller said his heart goes out to the class of 2020, and he knows everyone at EHS wishes the graduates well in the future.

“My hope is that going through this will not only bring these kids closer together, but will show them that they are up to handle any challenge or problem that may face them in the future. These are some resilient kids we have in this class, and I know that this experience will only help them grow and mature into adults that any community will be proud to have be a part of.”

Eatonville School District Superintendent Krestin Bahr said, while watching the parade, she was struck by the magnitude of COVID-19 and the uncertainty facing these seniors but knew they will succeed in life.

“The parade embodies all that is endearing to Eatonville,” Bahr said. “The caring, loving support of all students was evident by the families, staff from elementary to high school, coaches and community members. … I’m proud of this class and know they will all help change the world. Congratulations to all!”