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Diploma drive-thru part of graduation plan

This handmade sign was on Southern Boulevard, between Sunflower and Daffodil drives, with a photo placed on Facebook. Courtesy photo.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Although not all of the details, including exact times, have been released, here’s what’s in store for the city’s seniors:

Wednesday: Diploma Drive-Thru

Students, preferably in cap and gown, pick up their diplomas at their respective high school. Available teachers will line up to cheer graduates on as they drive through to get their diplomas. Professional photography will get photos of graduates.

The following rules will apply:

• One vehicle per graduate.

• No vehicles larger than a passenger van or large sport-utility vehicle.

• All vehicle occupants must wear seat belts.

• The graduate should not be the driver.

• Spectators must not exit the vehicle.

• If graduates have decorated vehicles, the decorating must be done at home, not on campus.

• No exchanging of gifts, flowers, cards, etc., on school grounds.

• No parking on school property.

• No congregating on school property.

• Obey state rules on face masks.

Participating staff members will wear face coverings and gloves, and adhere to social-distancing guidelines.

May 25-26: Field of Grads

The City of Rio Rancho will have the “Field of Grads” on May 25 and 26, with images of Rio Rancho graduates displayed on the field of the Rio Rancho Sports Complex. Graduating seniors and/or their families will be allowed to remove their signs on May 27 and keep them as mementos.

May 27: Class of 2020 Day

Graduate celebration videos broadcast online; neighborhoods and businesses decorate; and starting at 8:20 p.m. — “2020” in military time — there will be a “Community Cheer,” as interested graduates go outside in front of their homes while the community cheers and honks horns for them. And Rio Rancho Public Schools will post congratulatory messages on social media.

Additionally, there has been a move to get all of this year’s seniors “adopted,” an idea that began on Facebook, with families and businesses adopting them and gracing them with flowers, candy and other gifts — something else new for 2020. See “City of Rio Rancho Class of 2020 High School Graduates — Adopt a Senior” on Facebook to see how successful this has been.

Just like America has annual traditions and families celebrate them, so, too, until this year, has high school graduation been anticipated and celebrated with playing “Pomp and Circumstance,” speeches, the stage walk, confetti and parties.

COVID-19 changed all that, but Cleveland grad Aidan Moreno says he and his fellow Class of 2020 members understand times are different.

“I definitely appreciate (RRPS’s plans) a lot,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of changes and a lot of conversation at the district; I really appreciate it and a lot of other seniors do as well. It’s definitely all welcomed in my family: My mom and dad are appreciative, and I am as well.

“(RRPS) could have said, ‘Get on with your life,’ but recognizes all the hard work we put in 13 years. It’s crazy, (but) I feel our class will be able to overcome change in the future — it’s brought us all closer.”

Rio Rancho grad Taryn Melcher said the district’s plans are overwhelming.

“We didn’t think we were going to get a graduation (ceremony) after we worked so hard for 12 years. It’s not like we deserved it more, but because of what we’ve overcome. I lost my best friend; he passed away in his sleep,” she said, and that wasn’t the only member of the class who succumbed before the school year ended.

She anticipated putting “on my cap and gown and strolling across the stage,” not only for herself, but for her family.

“I just feel the deaths of those close friends motivate us: They’re walking with us; they’re proud of us; they know we worked hard,” she said.

The state Public Education Department forbade the district to allow stage walks after they’d already been announced, but the drive-thru diploma pickup will continue, as of press time.

Taryn’s mother, Shannon, said the Class of 2020 is unique: “These kids started out with 9/11 and they’re ending with COVID; Taryn was born Oct. 18 of 2001.”

Being that she and her husband had been Navy veterans — Taryn said she’ll join the Navy, too — “We didn’t put much thought into (9/11). You can’t let fear dictate your life, how you live every day and that’s what’s happening now.

“I believe (COVID-19) is serious, but I think it’s getting more politically driven than anything,” Shannon said, pleased to see that “parents and teachers are coming together. Yes, we do care — we’re more than teachers and parents.”

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