Graduating High School on a Ski Lift!

This re-imagined ceremony will make life-long memories.

May 25, 2020

You only get to graduate High School once. That’s why many US schools are looking for meaningful ways to hold graduations in these times of socially distancing when the traditional graduation ceremonies are not possible. One New Hampshire high school’s plans for commencement are over the top. The top of a mountain that is.

Kennett High School in North Conway New Hampshire is located in ski country and they plan on holding graduation this year on a ski lift.

“It's not a traditional graduation, but I think it's going to be a spectacular one, for sure,” said Kennett High Principal Kevin Carpenter at a Zoom virtual school board meeting, when he announced that graduation was still on for June 13.

That’s when the school board unanimously approved the idea to hold graduation for the 174 graduating students from Kennett HS (and students from the Eagle Academy) on the summit of nearby Mount Cranmore according to The Conway Daily Sun.

“I think this might be my favorite thing to vote 'yes' on ever,” board member Jessica Whitelaw told the Conway Daily Sun.

When it became clear that social distancing regulations were not going to be lifted in time for graduation, the committee in charge started looking at other options. Many schools were opting for virtual ceremonies or drive-ups to receive diplomas. They wanted to do something that was more meaningful.

Carpenter said that the idea for the ski lift graduation came from a school employee and that when he contacted nearby Cranmore Mountain Resort, they agreed to host the commencement ceremony at no charge. Then he needed approvals.

The school assistant superintendent Kevin Richard was onboard and then government officials quickly followed. The high-flying idea was a go. Richard said that the event is: “not replicating graduation but re-imagining graduation."

The graduation will be held over two days. It will begin with a broadcast on a local TV station and online of the traditional graduation speeches and awards ceremony on Friday evening, June 12, 2020.

Then the next day, graduates and up to four family members will ride the chairlift up the mountain where the graduate will be announced by Carpenter, be presented with their diplomas, and have their picture taken while still remaining socially distant. There is a rain date set for June 14.

It looks like it would be about a 30-minute round trip — about 10 minutes up the mountain, from station to station, roughly about 10 minutes to the time you get back on the chairlift, and then 10 minutes down,” Carpenter said.

With the groups spaced out, the graduation is going to take six-to-seven hours but the graduates and their families will not have to wait the entire time, each family will be given a time slot when they have to be at the mountain.

The community is behind this unique graduation. "As a principal, this makes me so proud," Carpenter told CBS News. "Our community is such a caring and giving one, and to see so many parts coming together to help make this happen for our kids is so heartwarming."

Ending what was described by Carpenter as a stressful and difficult time for the students due to the lack of peer interaction when the school switched to remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic, on a high note will be very memorable for the graduates and their families.

His advice to the graduates is to "stay strong, stay connected, and help us learn from this and move forward.

"It will be easy to blame the pandemic for a lot of things, but I would ask that they look for ways to grow and expand as a result of this," Carpenter said. "To find the new opportunities and to help our country and our world put the pieces back together."

Goodnet salutes the 2020 graduates who graduated on a mountain, in a drive-through, or a virtual ceremony. Congratulations and may your dreams always soar to the skies.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.