Drive-thru graduations begin for Durham high schoolers

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – No traditional graduation ceremonies are happening this year but Thursday was still a milestone for some seniors in Durham.

Seniors from J.D. Clement Early College High School were the first to graduate at Southpoint Mall with a drive-in ceremony.

“[We] graduated in the rain, which is sad, but I’m still graduating,” said senior Jordan Purvis.

“I didn’t think we were going to have one at all, but I’m so grateful for my school and the staff for putting this together,” said senior Nia Shields.

Drive-in graduations are a first for schools all across the country after the coronavirus pandemic canceled most major milestone for seniors.

“I thought that we weren’t going to be able to graduate at all, we weren’t able to do prom we weren’t able to do any of the other activities our fellow classmates [did],” said Purvis.

“It’s not the graduation that our students deserve but we are giving them all of the honor that we are able to in the middle of a pandemic,” said Chip Sudderth, chief communications officer for Durham Public Schools.

Students sat in their cars in the mall parking lot while they watched a livestream of the ceremony on their phones, then they drove up to the stage to get their diplomas.

“I’m a little bit nervous but I’m excited. This is new to me, but I can’t really see my friends, but it’s fine. I’m excited about today,” said Shields before graduating.

Today was a day of celebration after years of hard work. Instead of cheers and families screaming the names of their kids, you heard a lot of honking horns.

“We get to celebrate. This is a milestone and we’re all together, we’re all safe and healthy,” said Purvis’ mother.

Through all the obstacles of their final year of high school, the class of 2020 is walking away with a valuable lesson.

“Don’t let anything stop you from chasing your dream, if you want to do something do it,” said Shields.

Three more school are set to graduate the same way today at Southpoint Mall.

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