Toast of the Town: Bayard Seniors Receive a Special Send-Off

Toast of the Town: Bayard Seniors Receive a Special Send-Off

By Tyler Dahlgren

This isn't exactly the type of May the Class of 2020 had in mind.

The last leg of the journey through high school is supposed to be spent together. Memories are supposed to be made in bunches. Standing on the final peak of a course that was surely filled with its share of ups-and-downs.

"The situation with the pandemic and school closures has really heightened the fact that our students didn't get a chance to say goodbye to each other," said Dr. Travis Miller, Superintendent of Bayard Public Schools in the Nebraska Panhandle. "In early April, we had a student say 'I may have had my last day of school, and I didn't even know it. I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to anybody.'"

For two months, there's been a void. At the end of it, a lack of closure. 

"So there is sadness and challenging emotions, too," said Miller. "But there's also a lot of resilience."

When schools across the country shut their doors in mid-March, it left districts at first searching for the right way to keep the train on the tracks, and then the right way to honor seniors.

In Bayard, the district wanted to do whatever it could to send the Class of 2020 off in style. A week of honoring graduates that so much deserve a happy ending. The School Board, administrational team and staff were all on the same page. As was a community that's always been known to back the kids in their town.

The celebration started on Tuesday afternoon, with the annual Senior Cruise down Main Street. Spectators, practicing social distancing, lined the streets and cheered for the seniors as they made the traditional stroll through town.

The school district, in partnership with the City of Bayard, displayed banners along Main Street recognizing each member of the Class of 2020, who each received a smaller-sized banner of their own.

(Above: Kevin Fowlkes, Utility Foreman for the City of Bayard, attaches one of the banners recognizing the graduates of Bayard High School along Main Street.)

Sheep Creek Films produced a special graduation video that was streamed on Saturday and will be shown again on Monday, May 18th at the Midwest Theater and Legacy of the Plains Museum. Graduates received tickets for the drive-in showing in a checkout packet from the school that also included their diploma, award certificates and their personal banner. They were also presented with the first-ever alumni lapel pins, an honor Miller sees growing into a tradition.

"After some of the challenges that this class has endured, we hope this will lead to a sense of closure for these kids, and hopefully it will make our alumni stronger in the future," Miller said of the Class of 2020. "This will also help us nurture a strong connection in the future with our graduates."

In partnership with Steph's Studio (who captured the great photos below), each senior was also given a digital package containing 60-80 images taken of themselves during the virtual graduation photo shoot.

"Steph's Studio and Bayard Public Schools are proud of the graduates and are pleased to honor them with the package," Miller said in a press release.

The VIDEO produced by Sheep Creek Films starts with photos of the Class of 2020, and then Senior Class President Leah Albro addresses her classmates.

"Wherever we find ourselves (in the future), I hope that we'll all remember and cherish the special moments we've shared together," Albro says. 

It may not look exactly like they'd imagined it, but this is still their moment, and it's definitely one worth cherishing.

In Bayard, they weren't going to let the moment pass without a celebration.

*An additional in-person ceremony will be held for the Bayard Public Schools Class of 2020 once restrictions allow for mass gatherings.

(Above: Brandon Neiger, Class of 2020, smiles as his mother, Kelli Neiger, moves the tassel during the filming of the video production honoring the graduates. Photograph by Steph's Studio)


(Above: Jaden Serda, Class of 2020, prepares for the ceremonial tossing of the mortar board during the filming for the virtual graduation production at Bayard High School. Photograph by Steph's Studio)

(Above: Adrianna Salazar, Class of 2020, poses with her mom, Michelle Gregory, during the production of the Bayard High School virtual graduation. Photograph by Steph's Studio)

(Above: Lorren Henkel, Class of 2020, poses with members of her family during the photo shoot provided by Bayard High School in cooperation with Steph's Studio. Photograph by Steph's Studio)

(Above: Brooke Teppert, Class of 2020, poses for a photo during production of the virtual graduation at Bayard High School.  Photograph by Steph's Studio)