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Hendersonville High School Principal Bob Cotter handed out caps and gowns to senior students on Monday. TENA LEE

On what was supposed to be the Monday before graduation, Hendersonville High school seniors Natali Arms, Janae Waller and Jaclyn Jarrett pulled up in the school’s parking lot to receive their caps, gowns and graduation ceremony instructions.

Donned in gloves and a mask, Principal Bob Cotter greeted the girls, handed over the items and quickly sent them on their way. 

“It’s kind of weird,” admitted Arms. “You just expect to be inside and celebrating with your friends but instead we’re just driving through and barely even stopping. It’s definitely different.”

Although COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on so many milestones for this year’s graduating seniors, the three students say they’re just glad that graduation hasn’t been cancelled thus far. 

They also say they’re grateful for those who have gone out of their way to make sure their senior year won’t soon be forgotten. 

Originally scheduled for May 14-16, Sumner County Schools high school graduations have been rescheduled for June 25-27. Hendersonville’s graduation will be held June 26.

“I was really scared that we wouldn’t have a graduation,” Arms mused.

Both Waller and Jarrett said they were really disappointed when they learned last month that school had been cancelled for the rest of the school year.

“I cried,” added Jarrett.  “I just didn’t want it to end that way.” 

“I loved every single second of this year so I was really upset it got cut short,” Arms added. 

Besides graduation, the girls said they do have a few activities planned that they’re looking forward to. 

A senior-only ride-in is planned for 6 p.m. on May 16. Seniors will meet at the Indian Lake Swim and Tennis Club and drive by Indian Lake Elementary, Nannie Berry Elementary and through the Hendersonville High School parking lot while parents, family and neighbors line the streets and HHS faculty and teachers line the school parking lot. 

One mom has planned a small prom for the girls and their friends as well since the girls had already purchased their dresses before schools closed in mid-March. 

“I know all three of us are excited for that,” said Waller. “Parents definitely are making an effort because they obviously don’t want our year to end like this either.

“I’m glad that they’ve been putting in the effort to try to provide other activities to try do with our class before we all go our separate ways,” said Arms. “They are trying really hard to make up for everything.”

City and business leaders are sympathetic to this year’s seniors as well. 

Hendersonville’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed a resolution on April 28 recognizing high school seniors and proclaiming the weekend of May 15-17 as Graduate Weekend.

Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce President Kathleen Hawkins and Ward 4 Alderman Andy Bolt, who sponsored the resolution, joined forces in a video promoting the weekend and explaining how citizens and businesses can help the graduates celebrate.

Residents are encouraged to place a ribbon around a tree or mailbox with the school colors of the high school in their area while businesses are encouraged to offer specials throughout the weekend or post congratulatory remarks on business marquees. 

“This is a special time for graduates of all ages and their families and because of the current pandemic these graduates have missed out on many rites of passage,” said Bolt. “The least the city can do is honor them in this way.”

Hawkins, the parent of a 2020 graduate, said she’s happy to join the city’s efforts.

“We know firsthand the importance of this season of life for these graduates and we encourage all of our chamber members to help us celebrate Graduation Weekend,” she said. 

The Hendersonville Standard is also recognizing local seniors with a “Salute Our Seniors” digital photo gallery sponsored by Indian Lake Medical Weight Loss and Wellness Clinic. Parents or grandparents may submit their senior’s photo along with a congratulatory message in a commemorative digital photo gallery. 

Go to www.hendersonvillestandard.com to submit a message and upload a photo by May 29. Those who submit will be entered into a drawing for gift cards to local restaurants like Music City Diner, Slim Chickens, Sanders Ferry Pizza and Pub, Lili Bella’s cakes and Casa Vieja. 

In addition, the Hendersonville Standard will be running a special graduation section saluting high school seniors. The section will run June 25.

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The Hendersonville High School Foundation is sponsoring a Commando Pride parade beginning at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 17 in honor of HHS soccer coach Russ Plummer and band director Dr. Jeff Phillips who are retiring this year. 

Foundation President Scott Sprouse was a student at the school when Plummer and Phillips started working there in the mid-1980’s.

“Coach Plummer and Dr. Phillips have meant so much to HHS, the students and its culture,” said Sprouse. 

“It’s unfortunate the situation prohibits us from having the traditional reception but I know we can throw them a parade.”

For more information about the event go to https://www.facebook.com/events/250190232703979

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