A few parents in Liberty Lake took matters into their own hands to make sure their high school seniors had a graduation celebration and recruited friends and family for a parade by Orchard Park on Saturday. The graduates donned their caps and gowns and waved to the passing cars, some of which were decorated.
Liberty Lake Mayor Shane Brickner said some parents contacted him about using the park and he gave his approval.
“There were a couple moms who reached out to me and they said they’d love to honor the Liberty Lake high school graduates,” he said. “It’s one of those things I felt was important that the city support.”
The park was just perfect for the event, which allowed graduates to stand at the perimeter as people drove by.
“They’re excited,” Brickner said of the seniors. “It’s a pretty big thing for all these seniors to be together in some facet.”
It was also a good way for the community to show their support, Brickner said. He was part of the parade, along with Liberty Lake Police Chief Brian Asmus and several on duty police officers. “There are some things that are bigger than all of us,” he said. “They need us to help lift them up.”
Brenda Axtell was in the park to support her daughter, Victoria Axtell, and take video of the experience. She watched as the students mingled. “It’s so much fun to see them,” she said. “I haven’t seen some of them in a long time.”
Axtell liked that the community stepped up to recognize the seniors.
“Her older brothers walked the halls,” she said. “This is a replacement for walking the halls in elementary school. This is a great turnout.”
It’s been difficult for her daughter to be isolated from her friends, she said. “It’s hard,” she said. “They needed this. They didn’t even get to say goodbye to their teachers.”
Some wore shorts or jeans under their graduation robes, but Central Valley High School senior Ethan Walters went all out, wearing a suit and tie. “I like any excuse to dress up,” he said.
Like the Boy Scout he is, Walters was also prepared. He brought a folding camp chair to sit in so he didn’t have to stand the entire time. He was glad to be at the park. “Most of the people here are good friends,” he said. “I think this is a cool way to see the friends I go to school with but still be socially distant.”
The idea was that the graduates would stand six feet apart at all times, but socializing teens quickly broke that rule. They called and waved to people in passing cars, some of whom stopped to hand out gift bags or bouquets of flowers. The people in at least one car threw candy to the graduates. A few motorcycles joined it at one point, revving their engines as they slowly circled the park.
Niki Ely was one of the parents who organized the event. Her son, Ben Ely, is a graduate this year. The students there on Saturday all appeared to be Central Valley High School graduates, but Ely said any Liberty Lake senior was welcome. “It could have been any school or homeschool,” she said. “If they were graduating, we wanted to honor them.”
Their plans began in earnest when it became clear there wasn’t going to be an official graduation ceremony, Ely said. “We were hoping they were going to have some sort of graduation,” she said. “We wanted to do something for our seniors to recognize them.”
She was pleased by the turnout. “It kind of became a community thing,” she said. “I think the kids are having fun.”
After waving at passing cars, the graduates gathered in a big circle under a hovering drone and tossed their caps in the air in celebration. It may not have been the celebration they were expecting, but it was a celebration they all seemed to appreciate.
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