Kennett High School seniors and their families traveled up a ski mountain in North Conway, N.H., to receive their diplomas.
“Out of all the different types of graduations different high schools are having, I think this is the coolest,” says senior Eva Drummond. “It’s the Mount Washington Valley and we’re known because we have our mountains and our ski areas.”
Drummond grew up skiing Cranmore Mountain, but she never expected to go up it in her graduation gown and sneakers.
“I feel like I should have skis on,” she gasps as she and her family board the lift. “This is so weird to walk on the chair lift!”
Over the course of six hours, the chairlift pulls nearly 160 graduates and their guests by cable up to the summit.
For many, passing each other in the lift is the first time they’ve seen each other in three months. The school spent weeks planning the event to ensure staggered arrival times and social distancing.
Once in the air, Drummond looks back at the expanse of mountains, some still dotted with snow. Below her, ski trails burst with ferns.
At the top, Kennett High School staff greet the family amidst bouquets of flowers. The principal calls her name; Drummond picks up the diploma on a music stand and the family takes photos.
Before taking the lift down, they don their masks and wait for a volunteer to sanitize the chair.
Senior Medea Gargan says it’s the people that make this graduation memorable.
“I’m glad they got a lot of staff out here to say goodbye to the seniors.” she says. “It really means a lot – I almost cried at the top.”
But there’s one thing this graduation doesn’t have: farewell hugs.
Eva Drummond’s mother, Terry Young, says elbow bumps aren’t the same.
“You build up to graduation day as being this big release of just ‘Yeah, we’re done,'” she says. “And you’re really looking forward to that. And with a COVID graduation, you’re still holding it all in.”
Despite the restraint, this graduation gets high marks from students. Some in town are already asking if the school should do it next year, even if the pandemic is over.