Before they march across the stage to receive their diplomas at commencement ceremonies later this spring, this year’s cohort of St. Albans High School graduates is invited to take to the street this week to mark their academic accomplishments.
An outdoor salute to the graduating St. Albans High School Class of 2020 is scheduled for 6 until 7 p.m. on Friday, May 22, along Sixth Avenue in the city. (The celebration was scheduled originally for Wednesday, May 20, but was postponed due to inclement weather.)
SAHS English and Latin teacher and Student Council sponsor Melissa Agee explained that she had a personal reason amid others for organizing the celebration.
“I have a son and a foster daughter who are both seniors this year. In fact, my foster daughter is the senior class president,” Agee said last week. “Several teachers on the staff have children who are seniors. We started talking about it.”
And creating a local network of supporters. Agee met with In Stitches business owner Crissy Asseff, with whom she was working on a Student Council project, and mentioned the idea of doing something special for the class. Asseff said she had one of her own.
“She said, ‘I have this idea for graduation, but I’m not sure how to pay for it.’ The Student Council has money. I always have money; I run everything on a tight budget,” Agee said. As such, funds were available to make signs, stoles, banners and other keepsakes for the soon-to-be graduates.
The Kanawha County Commission also provided some funds, she said, to facilitate this evening’s celebration, which coincides with the original graduation date for the class that the COVID-19 concerns quelled.
“We’re going to be buying face masks for the seniors to wear with the money.
“I got all the pictures from the yearbook sponsor and matched pictures and names,” Agee said. “I went on Facebook and started social media stalking these children. I kind of shook the trees a little bit and had Student Council members track down friends who might not have been at school the day pictures were taken. ... It really got a little bit bigger than I thought.”
Under the current safety guidelines, St. Albans High School itself wasn’t a feasible destination for the celebration. “We want to protect that,” Agee said, “so I talked to the mayor. Sixth Avenue is the main street that runs through town. I told him, ‘I close that street for Homecoming every year. Can I close it for an hour and put these signs along Sixth Avenue?’”
St. Albans Mayor Scott James agreed to her request. Sixth Avenue will be closed to traffic from 6 to 7 p.m. on Friday.
“We’ve asked kids to wear their gowns and some other things and stand by their signs so everybody can be in pictures with all their regalia. That way, the kids can see each other and Mom and Dad can get pictures,” Agee said.
According to the St. Albans High School Project Graduation Facebook page, 254 students are scheduled to graduate in this year’s class. The graduation ceremonies at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center have been rescheduled, tentatively, for Wednesday, June 24.
The original planned date, Wednesday, May 20, was also the original graduation date for the class.