Acting Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza and Masuk Principal Dr. Jacob Greenwood congratulate a graduate with elbow bumps. (Alison Cross)

MONROE, CT — The Masuk class of 2020 traded in handshakes for elbow bumps, the football field for Fireman’s Field, and a walking processional for a car parade, in a one-of-a-kind graduation ceremony for the history books.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the Masuk community came together Friday for a socially-distanced, drive-through graduation to honor their seniors.

Dressed in caps and gowns, students met at Fireman’s Field to say hello, hug and take pictures with their classmates, many of whom had not seen each other in person since classes moved online in March. Friends and family decorated their cars, and even a boat on a trailer, in red, white, and black, streamers, balloons and posters.

Kyle Anderson, who will attend Stockton University in the fall, said the experience felt surreal.

“It’s a little weird, it doesn’t really feel like we’re graduating under the circumstances, but I think it will hit us soon and it’s great to at least have something in person,” Anderson said. “We have the closest bonds with the people around us. Leaving each other for four years is going to be hard, but I’m glad I met them.”

Other students shared their appreciation for the school’s effort to make the ceremony happen and turn it into something special.

“I actually really like how they’re doing it this year because it’s totally different, and I get my whole family here, and we get to decorate the cars. So it’s very fun. I’m very excited,” said Alivia Monaco, who plans to study engineering at St. Mary’s College in the fall.

A chorus of car honks filled the street as police escorted the graduates from the field to the high school in their cars. Signs of congratulations and well-wishes, created by people in the community, lined both sides of Route 111, and neighbors came out of their homes to cheer on the seniors.

Once at Masuk, students got out of their cars one-by-one, switched their tassels from the left to the right, received their diplomas, and walked across a stage in front of the school. Parents rolled up in their cars to snap photos.

Principal Dr. Jacob Greenwood and Acting Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza gave out congratulatory elbow bumps.

“These guys have done a tremendous job. Dr. Greenwood and the staff here at Masuk just set up an awesome, awesome event for all the kids and the parents. So many other years it’s just a school event, and this has been a community event,” Kobza said, adding this ceremony was extra special for him because his daughter, Madison Kobza, was also graduating.

Greenwood said the 2020 class showed a great deal of resilience during this tumultuous year, while missing out on many end of year events, including their Senior Prom and class trip.

“They really stood behind and supported us and the decisions we’ve made,” Greenwood said. “Everything we’ve said, they’ve worked with us, and we’ve worked together. It’s absolutely evident as you go through this, [that] they were raised by a great community. They’re great kids.”

Leaving Masuk’s campus, graduates saw their senior portraits, poster size, displayed in the parking lot, and picked up a free pizza, as their teachers waved goodbye for the last time.

“I’m glad I could be a part of making it what I hope is a special day,” English teacher

Tracy Forstrom said, adding what she missed, “not having the chance to say goodbye in the same way that we normally would, share stories, chat with them about where they’re going, what they’re going to do this summer. But, hopefully, they’ll come back to visit.”

Kobza and Greenwood expressed their thanks to the police and fire departments, the Parent Teacher and Rotary clubs, Planet Pizza, staff, teachers, neighbors who decorated their front yard with signs and the Monroe community.

“You’ve just got a ton of people that have come together to make this special for the kids,” Greenwood said. “I just want to be sure that everybody knows that we fully appreciate what the community has done for the kids. We couldn’t have done it alone.”

Ethan Briand, who will enter Indiana University in the fall, said although he will miss the friends he made at Masuk, he was excited to graduate.

“It feels amazing,” Briand said. “I think the school tried their best, and I’m glad to be here.”