Blessed Sacrament eighth-graders celebrate their graduation before receiving their diplomas. (Emily Benson photo)
Blessed Sacrament eighth-graders celebrate their graduation before receiving their diplomas. (Emily Benson photo)

It looked a lot like any other graduation.

The eighth-grade class from Blessed Sacrament School in Albany was gathered in the yard behind their school waiting for their ceremony to start. All 14 graduates were adorned in crisp, navy blue caps and gowns; clusters of students snapped photos and took videos, the group growing bigger and bigger as friends tried to get in the shots. Parents chatted about where the time went, how their kids had all grown up and were heading off to high school.

Still, not everything was the same. Instead of being held inside the chapel, Blessed Sacrament held a parking-lot graduation on Friday, June 12, for the eighth-grade class. Cars were parked six-feet apart and packed with the graduates and their immediate families. Balloons and streamers filled the parking lot and signs filled with well wishes were crafted by the students’ teachers.

For some schools, graduation ceremonies weren’t possible because of restrictions due to the coronavirus. Katie O’Connor, technology teacher and marketing director for Blessed Sacrament, didn’t want to leave her eighth graders — many of whom have been students since nursery school — without a proper goodbye.

“It was this or nothing,” O’Connor said. “This is the one and only graduation this eighth-grade class gets and we tried to make this as special as possible for them.”

Blessed Sacrament Principal Maureen J. Daurio led the ceremony’s opening welcome. Jarrod Harrison, eighth-grade teacher, followed with an opening prayer.

Students and their families waited inside or next to their cars as each student was called to receive their diploma. Fellow classmates cheered and honked their car horns as each student was called and posed for photos in the archway of blue-and-yellow balloons, proudly displaying their diploma in hand.

Tatum Liverio, class valedictorian, was excited to celebrate graduation with her classmates, but no matter the circumstances, goodbyes are still bittersweet: “I’m sad because I’m going to miss all the teachers here; they’ve been a big part of my life,” she added.+

“The biggest word we take out from today is community, and family,” Daurio said. “We are just one big family here and we’ve been apart for so very long that this was a great way for us to come together as close as we possibly can.”