In four days Destrehan and Hahnville high school 2020 graduates will walk across the stage in segmented ceremonies at Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center – but it won’t happen without a fight from DHS’s Meghan Morales and HHS’s Sophia Distefano.
“They’re Destrehan and we’re Hahnville, so there’s that rivalry there, but were both on the same page with this,” Distefano said.
Both students have started online petitions on change.org – petitions that have been shared enthusiastically on social media platforms. Morales and Distefano are advocating that their graduation ceremonies, postponed for months due to COVID-19 restrictions and safety concerns, take place on their respective school football fields instead of in Jefferson Parish.
“With everything going on, our class was not able to say our final goodbyes to everyone, including our friends and teachers that have been a huge part of our lives for the last four years,” Distefano said. “We just want a chance to come together one last time and see as many people as we can before we go our separate ways.”
The school district has planned for each school to have two July 11 ceremonies.
Destrehan High School’s graduations are set for 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. The first ceremony will be for advanced studies students and last names starting with A – H. The second ceremony will be for the names starting with J – Z. Hahnville graduates will also take the stage in two groups and ceremonies divided by last name. Those time slots are 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
“As previously stated, since Louisiana is in Phase 2 of reopening, all graduates will receive two tickets to the graduation ceremony,” the St. Charles Parish Public Schools’ website states. “All guests including infants and children must have a ticket to enter. In order to adhere to the guidelines set by Jefferson Parish and the Pontchartrain Center, all graduates and guests will have their temperature checked upon entering and must wear a mask at all times.”
Over 1,000 people have signed the online petitions.
“Every senior has already had their senior year ruined by the coronavirus,” Morales said. “All we want is to be able to graduate together and have one last good moment together. Many schools across the state have done their graduations on their high school’s football field and were able to sit next to each other. All we want is to be together and not separated.”
Morales and Distefano each said they, as well as many of their peers, were devastated to hear they would be graduating apart from many of their friends.
Morales said she understood the weather concerns that come with planning a large outdoor event, something Superintendent Dr. Ken Oertling mentioned in a response to an email Distefano had sent him about the petitions.
“I just feel like it could have been better planned, but I understand about the weather,” Distefano said. “I have a cousin who graduated from Springfield and their graduation was on football field… that way more than two people could show up … in my situation my grandparents and my nanny really wanted to come.”
The petitions can be found at https://www.change.org/p/hahnville-hogh-school-allow-hahnville-class-of-2020-to-graduate-all-together-on-their-own-field and https://www.change.org/p/st-charles-parish-school-board-to-make-destrehan-high-school-s-graduation-on-the-football-field.