Drive-Through Diploma Celebrations

Diploma Drive-Through Provides Send Off
By: Todd Martin
Neither Texas humidity nor global pandemic could keep these seniors from their high school diploma.
Across the Killeen area Tuesday, hundreds of miniature pep rallies broke out at five Killeen ISD high schools.
Just two or three days after their virtual graduation ceremonies, the new high school grads pulled through school parking lots where excited teachers and administrators gave them a very special gift – their high school diploma.
There were a few tears and a lot of cheers and smiles as members of the now-historic Class of 2020 received a most precious document.
Drive-through diploma pickup took place all day Tuesday and continues Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon at Killeen, Ellison, Harker Heights and Shoemaker high schools for those schools and at the KISD Career Center for Early College High School.
At the rear of the Career Center where Early College graduates pulled up to an area decorated with banners and balloons, counselor Warren Kostencki used a bullhorn to announce each graduate’s name – loudly.

School staff members verified identification and gave each student their gifts – donated apparel, a printed graduation program and a brown envelope with a folded cover and their official diploma.
Early College High School Principal Kathleen Burke presented each document to each student in their cars.
“I’m excited,” said Rachel Ward. “I’m going to miss everyone. What I liked best about high school was my friends and my teachers.”
Each school set up their drive-through slightly differently. Some included sound systems to play music. Some educators waved pom-poms. Some students came alone and others brought family or friends and some decorated their vehicles.
Ellison Principal David Dominguez said it was important for his staff to coordinate a pick-up line that provided smooth, safe traffic flow, but he also wanted everyone involved to have fun while maintaining social distancing.
“We wanted this to have a personal touch,” he said. “They are very enthusiastic. A lot of staff members wanted to help. This has been a good opportunity to come see the kids. A lot wanted to come.”
“Very relieving,” is how Ellison graduate Jaquez Douglas said he felt after picking up his diploma. “It was hard to do, but it was still the most fun four years of my life. I’ll remember the people, the challenges, playing on the football team,” he said.
“I had some teachers who treated me like I was one of their own,” he said, “like I was their son. It’s all going to be good memories.”
Shoemaker Principal Micah Wells agreed it was important to move the line of cars along safely and to distribute diplomas accurately. He was also heartened at a chance to see many seniors for the first time since before spring break.
Reflecting on the unconventional end to the school year, Wells said he understands all the more the advantages of an official, ceremonial farewell. “I’ll never take it for granted again – to have a graduation, to shake hands and say congratulations.”
“This is their send-off,” he said. “It’s a good day. The music is on. We can let our hair down a little and have fun with them.”

At Killeen High School, Principal Kara Trevino joined staff members to make diploma distribution a dance party.
As the music played, the teachers and administrators waved and encouraged the new graduates as they pulled into a lot behind the school and received their diploma.
“We just wanted to see the kids,” she said, “to celebrate them and let them know we care about them and we are proud of them. This gives us a little closure. I know we’ve brought a lot of smiles to their faces.”
Harker Heights High School Principal Jorge Soldevila, finishing his first year as the school’s principal has been telling seniors of their last year in high school, ‘this is going to be special.’ “I didn’t intend it to be this special,” he said to the laughter of one student picking up a diploma.
He pointed out the dozen or so school staff members, most on summer break, working in the heat to distribute the diplomas and other goods.
“They have come in force because they want to recognize and celebrate our kids,” he said. “This is a time for us to come together as a community and we’ll take any excuse to get to come and see them again.”