Smiling faces and cheering could be seen and heard outside of South High School in Valley Stream on May 26 as dozens of its teachers, dressed in the school’s color red, stood in front of the building for a drive by parade honoring their senior students.
Starting at 5 p.m., the teachers assembled to greet the graduating seniors, to pass on personalized graduation lawn signs to each student, who drove by in cars to collect them. The South PTSA and Parents Club organized the event.
With the possibility that prom and graduation would be postponed or removed looming in the teacher’s minds, and knowing that end-of-the-year senior activities have already been cancelled, many of the teachers said they found the event to be an emotional roller coaster.
“We’ve watched these kids grow up since seventh-grade, and we have such a bond with these kids,” history teacher Vonda Campbell-Dowe said. “It means a lot to me to show the students that we are thinking of them during these difficult times and to show them that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“It’s always sad to say goodbye to so many great kids, but this graduation is especially sad because they might not have a graduation ceremony and their prom and it’s not our fault,” said Salvatore Marino, chairman of the Math Department. “I think this drive by event is giving the seniors closure because it’s making it more real for them that they are graduating.”
“These are relationships that we’ve had with the students for six years and we will miss them,” science teacher David Wolfstein said. “It’s hard saying goodbye.”
Although many of the teachers said the changes caused by the pandemic have been difficult on them and their students, the drive by event seemed to lift spirits.
“This quarantine has made everything harder,” history teacher Jill Brady said. “So, it’s nice to have them participate in something and it seemed to make them very happy.”
“No one asked for the pandemic,” science teacher Effie Hatsios said. “The kids have had a difficult transition and they need to know we are there for them.”
For many teachers, they said the drive by also helped uplift themselves because they had the opportunity to reunite as a faculty again.
“It’s rare to see so many teachers together at the same time from different departments,” science teacher, Jeffrey Hsi, said. “This was great because I haven’t seen everyone in two months and it’s heartwarming that so many teachers showed up.”
“This has been a really hard time and it’s so nice to see everyone,” Laura Santa Maria, who teaches math, said. “It’s easy to get low when you’re inside all day, so this has been a great pick me up.”