Bassick seniors get a hero’s send-off at drive-up graduation in Bridgeport
BRIDGEPORT — For the time Bassick High School has remaining at its present location, it may have to name the driveway that divides the high school’s two buildings the “Canyon of Graduates.”
For nearly two hours Thursday morning, with staff, administrators, school board members and the school’s lion mascot cheering them on, 173 newly minted Bassick grads got a hero’s send-off, riding in and atop festively decorated vehicles.
There was confetti, signs, horn honks, and cheers as students popped out of the car at various stages for an Instagram shot, a diploma presentation, a professional photo in front of the school’s stone columns and finally a station to pick up their the tassel and a congratulatory box of chocolates.
What the event lacked in handshakes and hugs it made up for in smiles.
“Crazy,” is the only word Marquse Salmon could come up with to the describe the experience.
Gina Garcia, class president and a future immigration attorney, said after being apart for so long, it was important to end strong and united.
“Obviously we made it through a pandemic,” Garcia said. “To see everyone is here, altogether, it is so much fun.”
Bassick is the first of seven graduations the school district will throw over the next week for more than 1,100 graduates.
Traditionally held in arenas, school gymnasiums or football fields, Bassick’s graduation, like hundreds of others across the state had to take social distancing rules into account.
Until recently, large outdoor gatherings were out of the question.
So in Bridgeport, there are car parades. The ceremony portion, including speeches, was posted online.
For the car parade, “Pomp and Circumstance” played for two straight hours and Rich Deecken, a Bassick social studies teacher and baseball coach, used his baritone voice to call out the names of students as they drove through the graduation gauntlet.
Instead of sitting on stage, school board members — at Bassick, Bobbi Brown, Albert Benejan, Joseph Sokolovic and John Weldon attended — served as part of the cheering squad.
Weldon, the board chair, also served at times as doorman, opening the car door for graduates as the emerged to get their diploma.
Later, he called Bassick’s 85th annual graduation ceremony awesome and truly unique.
“This is one of the best events I have been apart of on my four years on the board,” Weldon added.
Parent Laurie Barragan, whose son Larry Hughes collected a diploma, agreed.
“I am absolutely taken aback,” Barragan said from behind the wheel of her car as her son basked in his moment. “For him to graduate this way at this moment is really something.”
Barragan said she had to hand it to the staff who put the event together.
“They did it right,” she said.
Jermaine Smith, who rode on the bed of a pick-up truck, called the moment very special.
“I made it,” was all Smith could say.
Acting Schools Superintendent Michael Testani called it a happy day.
“These seniors have had to overcome a lot in their high school careers and then to top it off, a worldwide pandemic,” he said. “Everyone here has done an amazing job.”