Pathway graduate Fatima Mohammed waits with her family before a graduation ceremony in the parking lot. Photo by Victor Moreno
Micah McEvers with his family. Photo by Victor Moreno

It was a tightly organized, drive-in graduation ceremony for Sequoia Pathway Academy graduates Wednesday.

Seniors and their families arrived in a line of cars off Whisker Road and were assigned their parking space to make sure they were in alphabetical order. The vehicles were social distanced with a parking space in between and faced the entry to the elementary school doubling as a dais. Some seniors mingled, carefully, before the ceremony began, but most stayed near their cars with their families.

Beyond a distribution of diplomas, the event heard speeches from Valedictorian Leah Peterson and Salutatorian Brielle Duff, who previously recorded their thoughts about their last, tumultuous year of high school to be shown on two large outdoor screens. Pathway Schools (Edkey) CEO Mark Plitzuweit also had recorded comments for all graduates in the system.A ceremony that typically would be in a crowded gymnasium was a little more subdued and a little more complicated while a little more whimsical as applause came in the form of honking horns.

Unspoken but the cause of the standoffishness was COVID-19, which had closed the school, and all Arizona’s public schools, after the third quarter. The class of about 60 had come through the turmoil of a first semester that saw dramatic staff turnover, but things seemed to have settled into a new normal before coronavirus came on the scene. Principal Markchele Kamson, who came to her post mid-year, told the graduates the school had to make the effort for a graduation “because you absolutely deserve it.”

After turning their tassels, the seniors strode one-by-one down the sidewalk while family members drove beside them and took pictures of them receiving their diploma from Kamson. The new graduates then hopped in their vehicles and drove away.


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