A total of 510 high school seniors have their names displayed on special banners, to be on display for the month of June.
Ormond Beach's high school seniors may not be able to walk across the stage this month, but they can walk across the Granada Bridge. And when they do, they'll be able to see their names listed on the celebratory banner poles.
On Friday, May 22, the city of Ormond Beach installed new decorative banners on the bridge poles congratulating all 510 seniors living within the city limits from all public and private high schools. The poles have all been labeled on a map, available at ormondbeach.org/Grad, and numbered with sidewalk chalk to help families find their student's name.
It's an initiative Mayor Bill Partington and City Manager Joyce Shanahan came up with when they heard graduations were not going to be held in May.
“We wanted to do something positive to show them how proud we are of them at the city for everything they’ve accomplished," Partington said.
The city spent just under $2,100 to make the banners, similar to its previous Hometown Heroes program where the city highlighted local veterans and active armed service members during the month of November. These banners will remain on display for the month of June.
The mayor said he knows these seniors have missed out on a lot of experiences — prom, senior breakfast, yearbook signings and trips. But he said everyone at the city wants them to know they care about them.
“We know this gesture can never make up for the loss of their senior year memories, or at least the second half of the senior year memories, but we hope it shows they aren’t being overlooked and that they’re still being celebrated," he said.
Class of 2020
Seabreeze High School senior Ian Wichlei was looking forward to finally walking across the stage at the Ocean Center in front of his family and friends on May 29. That's no longer happening, and Wichlei said for him, that's been the biggest disappointment during the pandemic.
“I feel like I worked hard for four years just to get to that graduation point and it just got taken away from us," he said.
There are people he'll never see again. Wichlei, 18, is heading to Florida State University in the fall, and said that it's sad he'll never get to say goodbye to many of his classmates.
These past couple of months have also been challenging academically; the transition to all online classes was confusing and done quickly, Wichlei said. He also dual enrolls at Daytona State University, and that's been hard as well.
He misses being in a classroom and seeing his fellow students and teachers in the hallway. Wichlei said he misses Seabreeze. Still, he remains in good spirits. He surfs when he gets the chance and keeps in mind that the situation created by the coronavirus is temporary.
He's learned to savor every moment and do the best you can do. When he finally is able to walk across that stage on his school's back-up graduation date of July 9, he looks forward to feeling of relief and satisfaction.
For now, the banners are nice. Wichlei said every senior deserves to be recognized.
“I really appreciate what the city is doing," Wichlei said. "It shows that they care. We actually are missing out on a big part of our lives and it’s not anything huge, but a small gesture goes a long way.”
Submit your photos
The city hopes students will dress up in their cap and gown and take a photo under the banner with their name. If they choose to do so, they can post it on social media with #OBGrad2020 and email it to the city's public information officer at [email protected], as Ormond Beach will be creating a special tribute ad using these photos.
All city staff members feel terrible for the experiences local seniors are missing, said Leisure Services Director Robert Carolin. He said he hopes the students will be happy to see their names on the bridge.
“I think it just lets our community celebrate the accomplishment as a whole of these wonderful students that have worked hard to graduate," he said.