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River Rouge graduates experience historic drive-through commencement

Posted at 6:04 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 18:04:29-04

RIVER ROUGE, Mich. (WXYZ) — Students did not know if they would get to walk across a stage at commencement when a pandemic shut down the world. The leaders of River Rouge High School however made sure they got their moment.

They had a “drive-through” graduation celebration on Thursday.

It was a celebration of achievement, with moments of reflection for the graduating class mostly born in the year after September 11th. They have already witnessed so much change in the world.

Sponsors of the class listed things that happened during their lives. The iPhone was invented when many of them were five-years-old. At age six, they saw Barack Obama, the first African American president win an election.

The class at a school that is predominantly African-America has also, since their pre-teen years, witnessed numerous high-profile cases of racially charged police brutality.

They experienced the globe shutting down due to a pandemic as they prepared to graduate. They have seen images of civil unrest in response to the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

“All lives can’t matter until black lives matter,” said Avery Burch, a student, as he addressed his graduating class.

School leaders addressed them, talking about how their generation had the potential to change the world for the better, then called for the celebration to begin.

Police and firefighters lined the street blaring their sirens. School administrators played music. Teachers danced holding signs. Families in packed cars drove up to a red carpet. The graduates got out, went to a stage, received their diploma, and posed for pictures.

Some families came in rented buses, vans, or limos, so more loved ones could experience the moment.

“I didn’t think I was going to get to walk across the stage. I thought I was going to get a hand out diploma,” said Takia Peterson.

“I have been waiting for this moment my whole life. I am ready to graduate,” said Betorri Hall.

“Every time there is chaos it is an opportunity for change. These kids know they can achieve. They will be phenomenal,” said Tarence Wheeler, Director of Corporate and Community Affairs.

“This is the best graduation ever,” said Myla Willis, a member of the Class of 2020.