Drive-by graduation makes graduates cry and helps them find the silver lining


SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Years of hard work came to an unexpected, and unceremonious ending for many graduates, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. All the hard work, the classes, reading of books, papers due, tests, and all the other things that go along with school, and suddenly a pandemic immediately ends nearly everything.

Coronavirus canceled graduation and parties, but some are finding ways to recognize those seniors.

In Suffolk, seniors were recognized with a drive-by graduation parade.  

It was unmistakable: four Suffolk Sheriff’s Office patrol cars with lights and sirens on lead a parade of cars around a small circle in a Suffolk parking lot for the Main Street Day Care and Preschool. 

Two women, both of whom work at the daycare, were dressed in caps and gowns. They were smiling, crying and putting their hands to their mouths all at the same time.  

One of those wearing a cap and down was Laura Callis, who is graduating from Tidewater Community College. She will attend Old Dominion University in the fall and major in elementary education. 

“They called us out of the [daycare] classroom and told us to go downstairs, and they had the gowns laid out and they said ‘Get dressed for your graduation,’” Callis said. 

The sound of Pomp and Circumstance came from a speaker on one of the sheriff cars.

“Oh my gosh. I had no idea they did any of this. My tears are happy tears.  They are appreciative tears.  Thankful to have somebody care so much to do this, and to put this much into it,” she said. 

One lady in line yelled out the car window.

“That’s my niece over there,” she yelled. “I’m so proud of her, and sorry we have to do it this way, but we are so happy for her.”

The woman was talking about Jirah Bouggs, who is a graduating senior at Landland High School in Suffolk.  She is supposed to have a graduation on June 20 in the high school gymnasium, but with this pandemic, one never knows whether that could be canceled. 

 The Lakeland High School graduate is going to Virginia State University in the fall.   

The times are tough, but even so, the parade brought happiness.

“I love you. So proud of you. We love you so much,” someone else in the parade yelled out. 

“It is great. I was so surprised. I didn’t know anything. They said ‘We are going to have a graduation.’ I said ‘Oh gosh, I am not going to cry’ … then I started crying,” Bouggs said, with laughter from her fan base standing behind her.  

Here’s the silver lining of the event: both graduates agreed it was more personal to have this event than a huge gathering with all the graduates and parents and friends.   

“I think this is better than a regular graduation.  It definitely is more personal and a huge surprise,” Callis said. 

“I think this is more personable than the regular graduation. Yes, because it is dedicated to me, just me,” Bouggs said.

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