THORNDALE — COVID-19 has put a dent in graduation ceremonies again this year, but don’t tell that to small-town Thorndale just outside of London.
The town is going to the max to celebrate graduating students as schools wind down this week — decorating streets, putting up signs and even organizing individualized pendants for each student.
“We were thinking of something that will be safe with COVID, as well as special for everyone,” Ardern McClean, who leads the I Love Thorndale community group, said Wednesday.
“With a couple of members (of the group) that were graduating, we thought let’s do something for graduates.”
In only a week, the town of 800 came together to turn the downtown strip into a runway for all 94 graduating students in Thorndale, including those from the local elementary school, high schools, college and university.
On a fence along the main street hang the 94 pendants, each personalized to include a student's name and the class of 2021 title.
“It’s really cool because you can see your friends' pendants. I’ll be hanging mine in my room,” said Beth McCallum, 14, who is graduating from West Nissouri elementary school.
But the best part of the celebration, she said, is seeing her parents get excited to take pictures.
“That's their favourite part — going around the town and going, ‘Oh, you would look good right there.’ ”
Graduates can go downtown and see signs congratulating them outside businesses, graduation banners and red balloons — the same colour as most schools in the area, said Grace Jones, a member of Youth of Thorndale and one of the organizers.
“I'm really happy that we could do pictures, and you could get some friends together, obviously distanced,” said Jones, who graduated from high school a year ago.
“Last year, I would have loved something like this, but I think this year kind of makes up for it in a way.”
The grad celebrations run all this week and the I Love Thorndale community group plans to keep the decorations up until after Canada Day.
Attired in dresses and suits, students and their families came out on Tuesday to enjoy a snow cone machine and photo booth outside the post office, where they had pictures taken by a professional photographer.
Some businesses gave out cards with a message congratulating the students and encouraging them to join Youth of Thorndale, a group of about 20 students from grades 5 to 12.
The Thorndale Farm Supplies store is one of the many local businesses that donated to the initiative.
“We always jump on board for anything to do with the community, and it's nice to be part of this, too,” said Peggy Segeren, the store’s manager.
“Our young kids are really important. They're the ones that are going to make our community.”
The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press