‘Something is going to happen,’ for BKW graduation

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Pomp and circumstance: Last June, Berne-Knox-Westerlo Superintendent Timothy Mudell shook the hands of graduates at The Egg in Albany. 

HILLTOWNS — Although the coronavirus pandemic has tousled Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s traditional graduation ceremony, the senior-class planning committee is doing all it can to give students the graduation memories they’ve earned over the past 13 years.

Typically held at The Egg, in Albany, the committee is now looking at hosting the graduation ceremony at the Times Union Center or the Altamont fairgrounds — where it will be easier to accommodate rules for gathering — or having a drive-in ceremony, faculty advisor Katrina Emmerich told The Enterprise.

The senior planning committee is made up of two faculty advisors — Emmerich, the school’s psychologist; and Katy Keyser, a teacher at the secondary school — as well as eight students: Luke Valochovic, Caroline Mundell, Nicole Judge, Jaida Wesley, Taryn Hanley, Taylor Meacham, Skylar Peay, and Cheyenne Brooks.

“The challenge has been trying to find different ways to give them that experience while following social-distancing rules,” Emmerich said. 

High school graduation is among the most significant events of adolescence, especially for those who don’t pursue further schooling, so a heavily compromised ceremony could have been a hard blow to seniors who already had to give up their last few months with friends before branching off into new communities. 

“It was kind of upsetting because it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for 12 years,” Senior Class Treasurer Hanley told The Enterprise. 

Hanley is 17, and she played soccer for BKW before Governor Andrew Cuomo shut down schools statewide to contain the spread of the virus. In the fall, she’ll attend Hudson Valley Community College. 

“Most of us are going to Hudson Valley,” Hanley said of the graduating class, “but out of my immediate friend group, [graduation] is the last time I’ll see a lot of them.” 

Also big for seniors are the senior school trip and the bevy of graduation parties hosted by students and their families. The trip — an overnight stay in New Jersey with one day dedicated to Six Flags and another day for the beach — has been canceled, and rule-abiding parties are going to be difficult to pull off.

“My family has had a huge cookout for the last 20 years,” Hanley said, “so we usually incorporate my siblings’ and my parties into that. However many of my friends have planned their parties as well. We have all worked around each others’ parties so we could attend each others’. We had been looking forward to them for months.”

As for the trip, Hanley said that, from the students she’s talked to, more people were looking forward to graduation.

Although graduation will be saved, Emmerich told The Enterprise that, early on in the pandemic, there was some worry that there might not be a true graduation ceremony at all.

“At first I think [the students] were like ‘OK, that’s it,’” Emmerich said, “and they’d get their diplomas in the mail and do a virtual ceremony. So they’re excited that there will be something.” 

It’s still not clear what exactly the ceremony will look like as the situation continues to unfurl, but Emmerich was firm in saying that “something’s going to happen.”

“It might be a combination of things,” she said. “Like a graduation parade and a ceremony at the fairgrounds. That’s what we’re trying to figure out. What is the memory that they want?”

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