No other graduation will be like the ones that happened this year.
At the top of original graduations this year, Eastern Local Schools held graduation for each senior at their own homes, thanks to Neil Leist, the Superintendent and his high school principals.
Leist, along with his high school principal, Robie Day and high school assistant principal Grant Stephan, were trying to find a way to have graduation different from what many schools were doing. Leist said that it was about a six to eight-week process. Once the schools were shut down, they started working on how to do it and especially how to do it safely. He said that they were getting suggestions from parents and what their biggest concerns were.
Many parents expressed concerns about the number of people most schools would allow them to attend their children and grandchildren’s graduation, and they did not like that. Leist searched and talked and saw something they liked and then came up with their own form of graduation in Beaver, Ohio, that turned out to be exceptionally special to the 2020 graduates of Eastern High School.
The three of them (Leist, Day and Stephan) used the school box truck, which is decorated with the Eastern Eagle around it and had stickers put on it and set out to host home graduations.
“Once you see it, you’ll never forget it. It’s kind of a beautiful looking truck with the eagles all-around it,” Leist said.
Leist drove the truck. He said that since he was raised at a sawmill and lived on a farm, he had driven a truck most of his life. The truck not only decorated but played pomp and circumstance as it pulled into every graduate’s home. Leist said they would have the senior fully dressed in cap and gown, walk down the sidewalk or driveway to the music.
“We would present them with their diploma and some places would have just a few people, where others may have 60 people,” Leist said. “Once we arrived at their domain or residence, it was up to them how many people they felt they could have there safely. Everybody does different.”
Leist shared that one of them had the elderly line up in the driveway in their cars and the graduate walked by them, then they had people standing lined up and they would walk by them.
“We did not try to dictate or prevent families from getting together, if they wanted to be in the garage or the house, they could watch out the windows,” Leist said. “We have done it for so many people who could have never gone to traditional graduation or even the nontraditional that most schools did.”
Leist continued that they did it at one home where the grandmother was bedridden and, in her bedroom, but watched out the window while they performed the ceremony.
“If someone came late, we would jump out of the truck and do the whole thing again for them. There were several places where we did it twice and a few we did three times, where people would keep showing up late,” Leist said.
Leist shared he had never had a more satisfying and happy, yet sad graduation.
“Where we laughed and cried, it was the most memorable week that I’ll ever have as a superintendent while doing this for the 61 graduates we did. There was a total of 65 graduates, but one or two just wanted their diploma mailed and there were one or two that want them delivered in the gym next week.” Leist added humorously, “If they had food and wanted us to eat, we didn’t turn down a meal.”
The graduates each received a gift bag with a unique gift from Leist, a roll of toilet paper signed by Leist.
Leist said it took about a week, with about 10 to 15 a day, and said he didn’t know if he could have done a seventh day. He said by Friday, they were worn-out, but that they all three said the same thing.
“It was the most memorable week of work that we have ever done,” Leist said. “to see those senior’s faces when they would back up in their driveway with that big box truck and perform the graduation; however, they wanted it to be done.”
Leist said that they put it out to the graduates that they had three choices on how they wanted to do their graduation. They would mail it to them, come to their home, or come to the school on June 1 and they would give it to them and that 61 of them wanted it brought to them at home. He said the people in the community were very grateful and that they had put that on Facebook and that one lady had a tree that had fallen in her yard and while they were there, they drug it back around to the backfield for her and that she had also put that on Facebook.
Leist talked about the seniors and what they have gone through this year. He thought why his school could not do something even more unique, and this is what they came up with together. They had a home delivery graduation, right at the senior’s homes with friends and family watching and sharing the day with them.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740)353-3101 ext. 1928
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