Morenci seniors make a case for graduation

Walt Mares File Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci High School seniors want to have some sort of graduation ceremony other than a drive-through diploma pickup.

By Jon Johnson

MORENCI – After 13 years of schooling, a student’s high school graduation marks a milestone that changes children into adults as they then go out to make it in the “real” world or continue their education at secondary schools.   

With the physical distancing encouraged to fend off the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have altered their traditional ceremonies. Morenci plans on streaming a YouTube video Friday night and then have a “drive-through” graduation Saturday, May 23, in which one car per graduate will enter through the regular entrance by the football stadium from Fairbanks Road and graduates will receive their diploma from the principal. Graduates will also receive a gift from their sponsor, which will include a copy of the graduation ceremony. A commemorative photo will be taken by a staff member and the parent dedication video will be available for purchase at the conclusion of the drive-through.  

The school district has also acknowledged its seniors with senior spotlight pictures on its Facebook page and allowed them to take a photo on the football field that had been painted with “Class of 2020”.

However, that plan does not sit well with the numerous seniors who took the time to message the Gila Herald on Monday night, demanding their school allow them the same opportunity to walk across a stage and receive a diploma with family in tow as has and is being allowed at other area schools, such as Safford and Pima.

“Safford got to have four people walk with them and had family and friends in the stands cheering,” senior Dejah Montoya wrote. “Pima is taking it in their own hands to give their seniors a graduation. Why can’t Morenci do one of those ideas? All we want to do is walk across the stage to show our families we did it.”

“Morenci seniors want a graduation,” senior Brigid Silvester wrote. “Can you please help us?”

That sentiment was repeated over and over as numerous other seniors and parents advised, “I want a graduation.”

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci seniors Dejah Montoya and Dereck Castañeda were crowned Winter Ball Queen and King, respectively. They are two of the many seniors asking their school to provide some sort of graduation ceremony where a small group of family or friends could attend.

Seniors who took the time to speak up for a graduation ceremony of some sort included Dereck Castañeda, Kayleigh Kolden, Dominick Gonzales, Aleeya Williams, Desi Babb, Ravyn Tison, Corrie White, Katie Pope, and Tre Palomarez. (#Iwantagraduation)

The movement to request a graduation ceremony started with a message from a woman who wished to remain anonymous after she felt the students were being let down by their administration.

“These students have earned the right to celebrate this milestone in their lives,” she wrote. “This is not an event that can be done a year down the road. I hope they reconsider and show them they care.”

Greenlee County has reported the fewest COVID-19 positive tests out of any county in the state with only three for the entire pandemic. The county health department reported a new positive test Monday. Its last previous positive test was more than a month ago and was a family member of the county’s initial positive test. The two patients have long since recovered.  

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