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Fitch High School seniors surprised with congratulatory yard signs

Groton — When Robert E. Fitch High School staff and community volunteers surprised the Class of 2020 on Friday with congratulatory yard signs, neighbors and people passing by in cars at times joined the celebration by cheering and honking horns.

As part of the surprise, photographers took photos of the seniors that they will have as keepsakes.

“It really made everyone feel extremely special,” Senior Class President Graysen Scherer said. She was photographed Friday in her cap and gown with the ceremonial mace that is passed each year at graduation from the senior class president to the junior class president.

“It made us very proud,” said her mother, Kristen Scherer. “It was very touching.”

Fitch High School event organizers said they are so proud of the seniors and planned the surprise to celebrate their accomplishments and reconnect with them. In place of traditional activities canceled due to the pandemic, they wanted to create a unique and memorable experience for the students, and bring the community together in a time of social distancing.

Amid the pandemic, seniors are missing activities like prom, the senior field trip, and the last days of walking down their high school hallways with friends and seeing their teachers.

“We had all that taken away from us, so it was so nice that they were able to do this for us and make it as special as possible, and it really was so special,” Graysen said. She added that she and her classmates are grateful to the administration and staff for organizing the surprise and also planning a drive-in movie theater graduation for June 19.

A community effort

Wearing Fitch gear, staff members and volunteers from the community gathered Friday morning in the school parking lot before driving off to distribute in teams the graduation caps and gowns and the red, black and white yard signs that say “Fitch High School Class of 2020” and “We Love Our Seniors” and are adorned with a falcon wearing a cap.

English teacher Casey Maraglino, a senior class adviser and adviser to the Renaissance Crew, said the event was a combined effort among the Renaissance Crew, Class of 2020, Grad Party Committee, high school administration and staff, local police, fire and emergency departments, the Subase Youth Center and local photographers.

She said they worked together to create a social distancing-compliant experience for each senior and got permission from Ledge Light Health District. The school provided gloves and everyone was required to wear a mask.

Mark Russell, district photographer, and art teacher Christina Scala, who runs the photo club at Fitch, coordinated professional photographers who volunteered their time to take photos of the students in their caps. Transportation Coordinator Patti Gomez coordinated all the routes.

The senior class advisers and Renaissance advisers organized the distribution of the signs, created by Critical Signs of Waterford and paid for by the Class of 2020 and the Grad Party Committee, Maraglino said.

“It was a huge community effort, and we just really appreciate it,” she said.

She said additional surprises are being planning for the seniors.

“It was really awesome to see the staff and everybody involved really come together to make this a special event for the seniors and their families,” Assistant Principal Erin McGuire added. “And it was so nice to just be able to see the students that we haven’t seen in person in so long and just to see the happiness and how well received it was.”

Social Studies teacher Karley Reising, also a Renaissance Crew adviser, distributed signs Friday with Maraglino and math teacher Lauren DeMattio, a Renaissance Crew and senior class adviser. During this time of distance learning, Reising said, not being able to see their students has been challenging for teachers.

On Friday, Reising saw kids she taught freshman year and those she recently had in class, and it brought back four years of memories.

“For us to be able to make that face-to-face connection, which is really what education is about, really helped my heart,” she said. “This has been a very challenging time for all of us and to be together again reminds us how great our community is and how we’re going to come back in the fall stronger than ever and I’m so excited to see the rest of my kids when we’re able to. This was an amazing experience.”

k.drelich@theday.com

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