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New Hampshire High School Celebrates Seniors In Ski Lift Graduation

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High school graduations are typically held in gymnasiums, arenas, auditoriums, on a football field, etc. While there’s a predictable “pomp and circumstance” involved in the celebratory program, this year high schools had to get creative due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools were no longer in session, and in-person graduations were canceled.

Kennett High School in North Conway, New Hampshire went viral in June 2020 with one of the most creative graduation ceremonies out there. Instead of individually handing diplomas to graduates, seniors and their families traveled up a ski mountain in a ski lift to receive their diplomas. It’s a graduation they’ll never forget.

A special graduation

Graduates and their families took a ski lift up to the Cranmore Mountain Resort—located in Mount Washington Valley—to receive their diplomas. They wore their graduation gowns and sneakers. Taking six hours to complete, the chairlift pulled nearly 160 graduates and their families up to the summit.

Students passed each other in the lift, and it was the first time they had seen each other since their school was dismissed in March. While they probably hoped they could have sat together at a graduation ceremony, the close-knit senior class was happy to still celebrate their achievement together, even if they were separated by ski lifts.

Administrators at Kennett High School spent weeks planning the graduation to ensure staggered arrival times at the summit, where graduates received their diploma and celebrated with administrators. At the same time, seniors and their families maintained proper social distancing restrictions.  

A memorable ceremony

It was a one-of-a-kind graduation for the seniors. Graduate Eva Drummond commented, “Out of all the different types of graduations different high schools are having, I think this is the coolest.” The senior grew up skiing Cranmore Mountain, but she never imagined she would one day be attending her high school graduation on the mountain summit.

“I feel like I should have skis on,” she exclaimed as she boarded the ski lift. Once she was up in the air, she gazed at the expanse of the mountains, still covered with snow from the winter season. Below her, she could identify the different ski trails she has explored multiple times.

Once Drummond arrived at the top of the mountain summit, administrators greeted her and her family with bouquets of flowers. School principal Kevin Carpenter called her name and she picked up her diploma on a music stand. Then, she was allowed to take photos with her family. Before heading down the mountain, Drummond put on her mask and the ski lift was properly sanitized for their safety.

Honoring the graduates

Some high schools decided to forgo any version of a graduation ceremony, but that wasn’t going to be an option for students at Kennett High School. Conway School District Superintendent Kevin Richard applauded school administrators who organized this creative graduation ceremony for students. He knew it was important for the school community to help make the graduation a success for students, who deserved a proper graduation for their scholarly achievement.

The mountaintop graduation wasn’t “replicating graduation but reimagining that graduation.” Richard commented, “The seniors have given up a lot.” Their final few months of high school ended differently than anyone could have imagined. He and many others believed that the class deserved a fun graduation that they’ll always remember.

Senior Medea Gargan already knows she will remember the graduation, and it’s because of the people who helped organize it. She reflected, “I’m glad they got a lot of staff out here to say goodbye to the seniors. It really means a lot. I almost cried at the top.”

The special graduation set high standards for what future graduates can expect from their school administrators. Juniors at Kennett High School are already asking if they can also have their graduation at Cranmore Mountain Resort in 2021, even if the COVID-19 pandemic is over. We’ll have to wait and see if that happens.

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