2020 Graduation: Ideas to celebrate in style

If you have a high school senior scheduled to graduate in 2020, you are probably experiencing a mix of emotions. You’re proud of the accomplishment and ready to celebrate this achievement. After all, high school graduation is the culmination of 12 years of hard work—for the student as well as the parent. However, the 2020 coronavirus outbreak has made it impossible for most families to celebrate as originally planned. 

Schools were closed unceremoniously. At the time, students and faculty didn’t realize they would remain closed until the end of the school year so there were no goodbyes for graduating seniors. Proms were cancelled, along with graduation parties and graduation ceremonies. And the students’ expectations of their summer of freedom before leaving for college have been reduced to FaceTime with friends or video binging on TikTok.

But the COVID-19 outbreak hasn’t broken the spirit of the Class of 2020. These (former) students and their families have come up with creative ways to celebrate this milestone achievement. As they adjust to the new normal and leverage technology to connect with others, they’re receiving support from a national community of leaders who want these graduates to know they haven’t been forgotten.


On Saturday, May 16, 2020 a groundbreaking program was broadcast simultaneously on a variety of television and online networks. It featured a wide variety of celebrities and leaders, including President Barack Obama who offered his (classy) version of a commencement speech to the Class of 2020. Hopefully this program inspired families to focus on the road ahead rather than the events that were cancelled due to the pandemic.

Celebrating safely and creatively

As we work to readjust our collective mindset around this graduation season, it’s important that we uplift those graduates who are very likely more disappointed than their parents. Combine that with the quarantine orders issued in most states over the past few months and you have a recipe for a sad teenager skulking around your home. And no one wants that.

Explore creative ways to celebrate high school graduation this year. You can get your teen involved in the planning or arrange a surprise celebration. Here are a few suggestions to consider.

  • Host a video graduation party: This is an obvious, quick and easy option. Zoom, FaceTime and other video platforms make it easy to gather a group of people to celebrate. Add a fun twist by having each person share an old photo of the graduate or send a song that reminds them of him/her.
  • Host a honk and wave party: This works well for surprise celebration. Ask friends and family members to decorate their cars with “congrats” messages and drive by your home at a scheduled time, honking their horns and waving to your graduate.
  • Collect video messages: Compile congratulations video messages to share with your graduate. These will be great keepsakes, and if you or your grad have any video editing skills the videos can be stitched together into a longer montage of messages that will make a great keepsake.
  • Socially-distanced party series: Okay, this will take a bit more coordination, but it’s a great way to involve multiple friends and family members. Schedule a series of small gatherings at your home, preferably outside. Keep the guest count low to allow for social distancing. Friday could be a pizza party for 10 of your teen’s friends. Saturday, you host brunch for 12 family members. Sunday it’s a pasta bar for 11 close family friends. You get the idea. It’s the new “KISS”: Keep is simple and small.

You can find many additional ideas online, with suggestions for creative celebrations and new ways to recognize your teen’s achievement. Most importantly, help him/her keep it in perspective. Although they’ve been looking forward to graduation for years, their health and safety is so much more important than the ceremonies that were cancelled and the parties that were missed. 

The Class of 2020 will go out into the world and create change. They will impact the future for all of us in ways we have yet to imagine. And when they do, we’ll all wonder if they became stronger and more determined in spite of the coronavirus outbreak, or because of it.

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