By Tia Lynn Ivey
When Morgan County seniors left school on Friday, March 13, they thought they’d be back in the classroom with their friends and teachers Monday morning. Little did they know, school would be shutdown for the rest of the year due to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus sweeping across the country. Seniors have missed out on spring sports, band concerts, and even prom. And now, school officials are unsure when a proper graduation ceremony can be held. But one community, Madison Lakes, decided to take it upon themselves to celebrate their local Morgan County seniors.
Madison Lakes, a subdivision with seven graduating Morgan County seniors, put together a special golf-cart graduation parade to commemorate the occasion last week. The seven seniors, Lipi Desai, Abby Kate Barber, Janviben Patel, Garrett Anderson, Abigail Glass, Caitlin Obrecht and Maitlin Stapp, all rode the streets with their parents in borrowed (and sanitized) golf carts, while maintaining social distancing guidelines as family, friends and neighbors cheered on from their yards.
Beth Erwin, who lives in Madison Lakes, thought of the idea after seeing something similar on social media.
“I just thought it would be a great thing to do. Just because we’re social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t be social,” said Erwin. “I just like kids. There’s not a whole lot we can control in the world, but the things we can do to make things better why not?”
According to Erwin,“ The seven graduates rode in golf carts driven by their parents throughout the community amidst the cheers, whoops, hollers and homemade noise makers of the residents. Not all of the seniors had golf carts but neighbors were glad to disinfect their carts and lend them to the graduates. The graduates decorated the carts with their college colors, put on their gowns and slowly progressed throughout the neighborhood. You could find most of the residents in their front yard, sitting in lawn chairs awaiting the progression. Those who didn’t already have some leftover New Year’s noisemakers in their closets used lids to their pots as cymbals and clanged pots with spoons to make quite a ruckus – others just hollered! Some even managed to find ways to play Pomp and Circumstance as the parade drove by. The weather was beautiful and a good time was had by all. The seniors were amazed at how many people came out to celebrate their graduation! We are proud of these kids and wanted them to know it!”
Erwin teamed up with the parents of seniors and other community members to pull off the parade.
“It was a great collaboration effort to make this happen,” said Erwin. “It turned out to be a more meaningful experience than I ever dreamed it could be.”
Erwin was right. For parents and seniors who have missed out so much on their last year of high school, the graduation parade meant the world to them.
“We were truly blown away by the level of love, support and celebration by our neighbors!” said Brandie Anderson, who’s son Garrett is graduating. “Almost every house turned out to celebrate our Seniors! It was a very special evening and truly meant a great deal to our family and I think our neighborhood just started a new tradition!”
“Our neighborhood hadn’t done a parade before so it was pretty amazing to be a part of it!” said Garrett. “We all have worked very hard to get where we are and are very thankful to our family, friends and neighbors who came out to cheer us on.”
“It was overwhelming the amount of support,” said Chrissi West, whose daughter Caitlin is graduating. “As a senior mom, it saddens me that she is missing out on a lot of her senior year, but just having the support of the community, it meant a lot.”
“It really overwhelmed me to see how much my neighborhood and community cares about us seniors,” added Caitlin. “I feel like with everything going on we are just sitting around waiting to see what’s going to happen next, but they all made us feel like we were the top priority at that time. I want to thank them all and Go Dawgs! “
Nikki Carter, whose daughter Maitlin Stapp is graduating, couldn’t believe how alive the neighborhood became for the parade.
“I was so surprised seeing how many people came out for our kids. It turned out to be incredible,” said Carter.
“It was really special to know our community got together to recognize our seniors,” added Maitlin. With everything we have been going though with the virus, to know what we were going through, to do this for us was really special.”
Erwin is thrilled to see how the graduation golf-cart parade all came together for these Morgan County seniors.
“You know these kids worked so hard and deserved to recognized and celebrated for all their hard work,” said Erwin. “I’m glad we made this happen for them.”