My youngest child graduated from Hilo High this year. Hilo High had a really nice drive-through ceremony that allowed family members to feel connected to the graduate and the ceremony. Prior to heading down to the Hilo High gym for our scheduled drive-through time, I got some help from some friends to decorate the car with balloons and sparkly ribbons. We headed to the drive-through where we were greeted and cheered on by Hilo High teachers and staff and received our name card and other goodies including a class t-shirt and a face mask.
After leaving the gym, we headed up Waianuenue and saw sport team coaches and teammates along the way — jumping up and down, holding banners and posters, and cheering us on. As we got to the school parking lot, we saw balloons, an amazing stage, a red carpet, and so many supporters. My emotions were definitely present as I saw all the love from the Hilo High community come together to recognize and honor my daughter and all her classmates. Despite this not being the graduation any of us expected, it was a special one. One of the cars in front of us was a limousine, several of the trucks in front of us were amazingly decorated like parade floats, and almost all of the drivers were beeping and honking with happiness, pride, and joy. Each student got to walk on a long red carpet sometimes in a light sprinkling of rain and walked through what I will call a sword/saber arch that I think is meant to recognize VIPs for an arrival or departure ceremony. This ceremony really is both a departure ceremony and an arrival to the next phase of their lives. There is so much excitement for the future. Each of the cars could drive alongside the students as they proudly walked the carpet sporting their Hilo high colors and lei. My daughter was gifted a made-with-love puakenikeni lei from flowers grown in our friend’s yard. Everything was so special. During this drive-through ceremony, I have to say that the family of the graduates felt so connected. It was amazing to go through all of this on the campus where prior to this COVID year, so many memories created. When the students got to the stage they were greeted by the principal and the district superintendent who conferred the degree/diploma upon the graduates.
After leaving the stage, the graduates then headed to a photo booth where our Hilo High photographer, Jared Fujisaki, memorialized the moment for each student. And that wasn’t all! Teapresso joined in with a booth where they gave each graduate a berry boba drink. The community really came together to honor our graduates. I saw videos and photos of graduation ceremonies from other schools in Hawaii and each school created an amazing graduation that was best for their graduates. Congratulations to all graduates! Living Hilo Style.