By Ilya Arbit For the News-Gazette:
On a bright, sunny spring afternoon in St. Cloud, the Harmony High School parking lot that has been deserted the past few weeks was filled with students.
But they were not there to attend class. They were seniors whose final school year at Harmony was unexpectedly cut short as the novel coronavirus spread rapidly across the world bringing society to an abrupt pause. Despite the unprecedented challenges that faced the graduating class of 2020, these students were determined to celebrate their entry into the adult world with a parade through the school they’ve devoted so much of their time to and the community that supported them in their journey.
Hundreds of graduating seniors gathered with family, siblings and friends in their respective cars adorned with banners, balloons and colorful markings on May 20 for the Harmony High School Senior Parade. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office was present to assist the school administrators with regulating traffic and organizing the vehicular procession along the parade route, which was sprawling with signs that represented each graduating senior with their name and photo listed on the sign. As the cars and trucks moved through the route, they were greeted by local firefighters and school administrators.
As the cars reached the courtyard with the Sheriff’s Office escort - the culmination of the parade through the school, the seniors were greeted by celebratory music provided. Inside the courtyard, as the cars pulled up to the center - the assistant principals distributed candy while all of the school’s faculty cheered on from the sides of the drive path. The seniors, who have anxiously spent the past few months readjusting to a new reality - were excitedly cheering while leaning out of sunroofs and side windows, honking the horns of their cars and waving homemade signs and banners. OCSO closed out the parade by following the vehicles in their signature Chevy Camaro escort vehicle.
After exiting the school, the procession lined up on the adjacent Arthur J. Gallagher Boulevard and continued across the U.S. Highway 192 to the Harmony community where spectators lined the streets with additional banners to welcome the students in the parade. As the parade came to a close, the graduating seniors came out to the square to see their friends and family - take photos and say goodbye to their classmates - as they prepared to turn the leaf on a new chapter in their journey through life during these unprecedented and uncertain times.