The final trip into the Hernando High School parking lot for the Class of 2020 became quite an event Friday night. It seemed like the entire community came out to witness what would be a momentous and historic occasion.
Called “The Class of 2020’s Farewell: Corona Cruise,” the Hernando senior class of 271 students lined up at the baseball fields Friday evening for their send-off parade. From there, escorted in front and at the rear by a Hernando police escort, the procession went up on Robinson Gin to Oak Grove, then to U.S. Highway 51 and Commerce Street. The parade continued east on Commerce for McIngvale Road and eventually led to the high school, where the vehicles entered the campus on Dilworth and finished in the parking lot behind the high school building.
Friday was the climax of what Mayor Tom Ferguson and the Board of Aldermen had proclaimed as Class of 2020 Recognition Day, encouraging residents and businesses to salute the seniors who would not enjoy the traditional graduation sendoff into the next phase of their lives, thanks to the coronavirus outbreak. Several congratulatory signs were seen across the city on Friday.
Memory Craig, a parent of a Hernando senior, had approached the board earlier in the month about a proclamation and asked for the city’s support in holding a parade for the students. Craig told the board at the meeting on May 5 a parade would allow the students’ extended families to be able to see them be celebrated. Friday’s parade was the result of planning and the city’s backing of the plan.
Once on the school grounds, students and their vehicles were parked with a distance set between them to adhere to the social distancing demands. That allowed the seniors to have a “front-row” seat, of sorts, to watch a fireworks show especially for them sponsored by Dr. Jason Coleman to complete the evening’s events.
Each of the vehicles carrying the seniors was specially decorated by them with a variety of items, such as flags for their college destination, sports banners, Class of 2020 signs, streamers, and other items that made Friday’s parade seem more reminiscent of a homecoming parade than a farewell.
Parents of the students were happily surprised and grateful for the city’s huge turnout at the parade, including Debora Adkins, the mother of Hernando graduate Will Adkins, who plans to study nursing at Northwest Mississippi Community College next year.
“As a parent of a student who went through 12-13 years of school from kindergarten on up and then see them not have the traditional graduation, people embraced us and really cared about what we were going through and what was taken away,” Adkins said. “I thought it was great and the kids loved it. They got to express themselves and have a little bit of attention, which is what your senior year is all about.”
Friday ended the final week of the class year and Saturday, May 23 would have been graduation day for Hernando High School. Instead, the DeSoto County School District was initiating plans for small group graduations on school campuses across the district to make up for the inability to hold a larger gathering at the Landers Center.
Adkins said her son appreciated the support the community showed for him and his classmates.
“Will told me, ‘Mom, it feels like the town really does care,’” Adkins said. “There were people in the crowd that we know no longer have children in the school, so it wasn’t just senior parents. I was really shocked and thrilled that people did come out and support the seniors.”
While the end of the school year was not what was expected or hoped for by students completing their high school careers, Adkins said the finish of their high school time has become a memory that no one else likely will ever have, and she hopes no one ever will, adding, “It’s going to make a memory and it’s going to make history.”