As a Fordland graduate, Alissa Keys, one of the Fordland High School science teachers, knows how special graduation can be.

As a way to celebrate the Class of 2020, she, along with other faculty, city staff and community members, hosted a parade May 15, which was the original date for Fordland High School's graduation.

"It took the community to pull off this event," said Keys. "I wanted the seniors to have something special they could celebrate on that day they have looked forward to for the school year."

For the parade, students could decorate their vehicles the way they wanted, according to Becky Haynes, one of the members on the event committee.

"We had a classic truck, golf carts, side-by-side UTVs, even a monster truck," said Haynes.

"The town was decorated with balloons, signs, music (one house played 'Pomp and Circumstance') and cow bells."

At the end, school faculty and Fordland city staff gave each student a small gift, their middle school packet of work and letters to their future selves. The letters project has been going on for 15 years now, according to Fordland Middle School history teacher Valerie Cochara.

"Every year, in eighth grade, students write letters to themselves," said  Cochara. "I ask them questions like who do they think is going to be the super couple that didn't exist that year or how many snow days do they predict. It’s kind of funny because with the snow day question, only two students guessed 25 days. Most of the answers were five or six days, but with the whole coronavirus thing we had way more than that."

Cochara added she usually presents seniors with their letters during the graduation practice, but she decided to give them out at the parade.

"We have a graduation date set for July, but with all that’s going on you just never know what’ll happen," said Cochara. "They were so excited when they received the letters, though. I know they’ve been eager to get them." 

It's a team effort to make a parade happen, which is why Keys created a committee of administrators, faculty, and community members to organize the event, including Misty Grandel, Tamitha Ritter, Kerri Long, Rochelle Carroll, Josh Smith, Becky Haynes, Toni Owens, Valerie Cochara, Pam Hintz and Teresa Cardwell.

"The parade was a success because of the entire community and Fordland R-III Schools," said Keys. “It was more than I could have ever done by myself. Our administrators said yes to all requests, including purchasing supplies to ensure every vehicle was decorated."

Keys said Cochara, Haynes and Sarah Hazelett helped her contact every senior to ensure they had a vehicle decorated. Community members stepped up to decorate the town and offer to drive seniors. 

"Our city hall made posters and goodie bags and had graduation beach balls for every senior," said Keys. "The nostalgia of starting (the parade) at your first school and ending at your last school was neat for many of the 13-year students!"

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