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By Steve Steiner
Executive Editor 

Surprise Accompanies Caps and Gowns Given Students of Bartow's 3 High Schools


Last updated 4/23/2020 at 1:18pm

Steve Steiner

Dr. Cynthia Downing, commandant is Summerlin Academy, holds up one of the 450 signs, a surprise gift for seniors

It wouldn't be until almost 10:30 a.m., Thursday, April 23, before there was a much-welcomed breather.

Since starting 9 a.m., and slated to last until 12:30 p.m., a cavalcade of vehicles bearing yet-to-graduate high school seniors pulled up, one at a time, to a staging area in-between Bartow High School and the football stadium.

"They were standing at the gate, waiting for us to open," said Dr. Cynthia Downing, who is the commandant for Summerlin Academy. The academy is one of the three high schools on the campus, the others being the International Baccalaureate school, and Bartow High School.

Taking place was the distribution of caps and gowns to soon-to-be-graduating seniors; those and a surprise. Each car was also given a street sign bearing the message of congratulations to the Class of 2020.

"We've given out about one-third, about 150 so far," said Kellie Burkey, who teaches senior English. Burkey is also the senior class sponsor and graduation coordinator.

As the caps, gowns and signs were handed out, school personnel shouted "Congratulations" as each vehicle slowly pulled away.

In addition to receiving caps and gowns and signs, if they wanted, seniors had photos taken of them sitting in their vehicles, displaying what had just been received.

Steve Steiner

Madison Croy is all smiles upon receiving her cap and gown, and sign.

"This is for part of the yearbook," said the photographer, Lee Putnam, the yearbook coordinator. "We'll put these on our school website, as well as on other social media sites "

It was difficult determining who was enjoying this more. Despite the weather and humidity, school personnel were in good spirits, albeit with a trace of sadness.

"It's a little lonesome without the students and the teachers," said Bartow High School Principal Emilean Clemons. "We miss them, dearly."

Madison Croy, a BHS senior acknowledged she was sad over the possibility there might not be a graduation ceremony. However, picking up her cap and gown, and sign, blunted some of her disappointment over the prospect of not walking and receiving her diploma.

"To me, having the cap and gown, it's inspiring," she said.

Author Bio

Steve Steiner, Executive Editor

Steve came out of a two-year retirement to helm Following a career in journalism/advertising/public relations --- at one point being a partner in an advertising/PR agency --- he shifted professions and focused on food service and hospitality before returning to journalism. As a journalist, rose from reporter to sections editor to managing/executive editor with newspapers in North Carolina, Mississippi and Florida. He is enjoying restoring a quality news site for his adopted hometown. Send him your story ideas.


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