(CBS NEWS) – Social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders across the country have thrown a wrench in many peoples’ plans, including high school seniors who were looking forward to a traditional graduation ceremony. Most schools have been forced to hold their ceremonies online, but one New Hampshire high school’s solution is to have graduates ride ski lifts to receive their diplomas.
Kevin Carpenter, principal of Kennett High School, told CBS News the idea for a ski lift graduation came from an employee at the superintendent’s office. Carpenter said he loved the idea, and the high school contacted nearby Cranmore Mountain Resort, which agreed to host the unique commencement — free of charge.
In June, roughly two months after the typical ski season in New Hampshire ends, the ski lift at Cranmore is set to be packed with 174 graduating seniors. “The response so far has been very positive,” Carpenter said. “Most families wanted an in-person experience and not just a virtual ceremony or a drive up ceremony.”
“This is definitely not that, but it still is not the full traditional graduation — and we will need to maintain social distancing practices. But given what is going on in the world, this is a great way to celebrate the achievements of these young men and women,” he continued.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Kennett High School’s staff was considering multiple alternative 2020 graduation options, but once the ski lift idea was on the table, they were “all in,” Carpenter said.
“As a principal, this makes me so proud,” he said. “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.”
“People have been coming out left and right to offer help and support,” he added. “It is just so wonderful to be a part of this and help make it come true for our kids. And as I said, there are so many people making this happen.”
Carpenter said one of the biggest challenges he’s seen students face in the past few months is the lack of peer interaction.
“I think there are a lot kids that are stressed, and may be suffering from trauma related to this, and we cannot provide all the services that we normally would,” Carpenter explained.
The advice he’d give graduating seniors in his town and across America 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.”