Communities Plan Celebrations For Local Graduates

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A Shipley’s Choice Parade

With over 50 students graduating from Severna Park High School, Mount Saint Joseph High School, St. Mary’s High School and Shipley’s Choice Elementary School, the cancellation affected the Shipley’s Choice community in a big way. Longtime resident Bill Mitchell knew that these students deserved to be recognized.

“Well, I got the idea one day that it was a shame these kids didn't get any recognition,” said Mitchell. “So, I put a thing in our Shipley's Choice Facebook, ‘Would anybody be willing to come along and volunteer to help?’ They put it together and we had a wonderful crew of seven ladies.”

Together, Mitchell and the team of volunteers planned a parade for the graduates. The parade was split into two groups: high school and elementary school. Each group started in different locations but eventually met up to make one large parade through the main roads in Shipley’s Choice.

Almost 50 cars lined the streets as “Pomp and Circumstance” played. The graduates waved to onlookers from their sunroofs or windows as they drove by.

The parade was led by grand marshal Rocco Ferretti, the beloved former principal who was at Shipley’s Choice Elementary when many of the graduating seniors started elementary school.

“When the committee called, he jumped right on it,” said Mitchell. “He was very happy to come out and it was good to see him. He remembered a lot of these kids. Of course, they all remembered him.”

It was not the graduation that they were expecting, but the Shipley’s Choice graduates will remember this experience for a lifetime.

“The seniors were very gracious, the people of the committee as well,” said Mitchell. “They recognize that this really turned out to be something fun. It really brought Shipley’s Choice together again.”

Cypress Creek Creates Socially Distant Celebration

All mothers of Severna Park graduates, Vaishali Shah of the Cypress Improvement Association, Susan DeRocco-Keller of Trinity Farms and Marlo Russell of Cypress Glen decided to plan a graduation celebration while they were on a socially distant walk.

“We were lamenting the fact that our kids are amazing young men and we were sad that we couldn't celebrate them,” said Shah. “We thought, ‘Let's do our own celebration.’”

The event took three weeks and countless neighbor contributions to put together.

Terri and Pat Bosak offered their deck as a stage, Doug and Brook Fowler donated chairs and put on a firework show, Mike Hornberger donated his audio and visual equipment for music, DeRocco-Keller etched “SPHS 2020” on glasses for each senior, Russell and Vaishali Shah customized chocolate wrappers and goodie bags, Vaishali Shah made a slideshow presentation, and Veeraj Shah and Joe Keller emceed the event.

On the day of the event, seniors stood in circles six feet apart. Though they were originally hesitant about attending, 10 of the 14 seniors came and stayed throughout the entire event. They even helped clean up afterward.

“One of the girls wrote a really sweet note and brought us flowers,” said Vaishali Shah. “She said, ‘It was the best graduation I could ever have and I'm so glad I came.’ It brought tears to my eyes.”

Vaishali Shah said that though she will miss the graduates as they move away, particularly her youngest son, she is excited to see where the future takes these remarkable students.

“I am so amazed at how these kids have grown up to incredibly engaged young men and women,” she said. “I am so proud to be a part of this community. Each child has done something special in their own way and I am so happy we were able to celebrate that.”

The college graduates of Cypress Creek are looking to hold a similar celebration this summer.

“It was a magical night,” said Vaishali Shah. “It was so much more personal and fun than sitting in a stuffy building and seeing your child onstage for a few seconds.”

Both Shipley’s Choice and Cypress Creek have had requests to make the community graduation ceremony a regular event.

“It really worked out wonderfully, to the point where after the parade, several kids who were juniors in Severna Park High School came to me and asked to do it again next year,” said Mitchell. “The parade, to them, was more important because they could see all the friends that they've grown up with over the years.”

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