As the novel coronavirus pandemic stretches on, high school students continue to lose out on memorable moments. In the spring it was prom and graduation. This fall it’s homecoming.
Normally, students at high schools across the county spend their homecoming week showing off their school spirit and participating in planned activities. Parents and students at Urbana High School wanted to try and keep that same energy this year in spite of restrictions so they got creative.
The Urbana High Safe and Sane Committee partnered with the school’s student government association and planned a week of safe school spirit. Students were encouraged to dress up in a different theme each day for online classes; a canned food drive was held that pitted the grades against each other to see which class could collect the most; and the week ended with a car decorating contest and car parade through Urbana.
“This is an important time of the year for them and...we thought it would be still fun to celebrate somehow,” said Sabrina Alban, president of Urbana High’s Safe and Sane Committee.
On Thursday evening, about 20 cars painted in blue and white, some with balloons, some blasting music rolled down Worthington Boulevard and onto Campus Drive near the high school, where they were met by a group of staff members and administrators who had come out to cheer on and celebrate with their students. Some community members even stood outside on Worthington Boulevard to show support.
“The students, the parents, everybody is looking for a way to connect and feel connected to their high school experience and to Urbana right now and I think that this [car parade] is just a great way to show their pride,” Alban said.
Mason Hill, a member of the high school’s student government association, agreed. He said with online learning, it’s easy to start feeling disconnected from one’s own school.
“When you’re online, it’s very easy to feel...a little bit less pride in your school because you’re not going there on daily basis. So, what this [week] did is it kind of revitalized a lot of people’s school pride,” Hill said. “It was so great to see all the school spirit behind the screens...it was really great to see that people still had so much pride in our school online.”
Brady Roberton, a ninth-grader, participated in the car parade with a few of his friends. He said it’s weird experiencing his first homecoming this way but that he has still enjoyed it.
“It’s definitely something new, but it’s pretty exciting it’s a good way to be able to celebrate being at the school...and to express school spirit and just show that we care,” he said.
Michele Purcell, a parent of a senior at Urbana High, said she’s just trying to memorialize as many moments as she can regardless of whether or not they look at a little bit different compared to past years.
“We’re trying to celebrate and do as many milestones as we can while being cognizant of social distancing and everything that COVID brings with us,” she said.
Dave Kehne, principal of Urbana High, said he and staff miss students being in the building and was glad to be able to connect with students through the parade, even if it was brief.
“It is always a great opportunity to be with students, and our event today was safe and spirited, and I couldn’t ask for anything more,” he said.
Hill said more than anything himself and other students are simply trying to make this school year work in whatever ways they can.
“We’re definitely doing the best that we can and adjusting as much as possible, and things are not perfect, but the amount of effort that everyone is putting in is making it feel like it is perfect,” he said.