Another tradition has begun at Porterville High School.

Yes, PHS staff and students held what could be called a drive-thru ceremony in which the school’s seniors picked up their caps and gowns and did it because the class of 2020 is missing out on most of the rites of passage graduates normally have.

But longtime PHS teacher and wrestling coach Tim Vanni said he wouldn’t be surprised if the cap and gown ceremony is done every year from now on at PHS. “I think this is probably an event we have got started,” he said.

The event was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. But a large number of vehicles were lined up well before 9. Caps and gowns were passed out in front of Sharman Gym with staff and others in the parking lot between the tennis courts, Sharman Gym and the swimming pool lined up to show their support for students.

The line of vehicles was backed up across Vine in front of what’s now the CIF Central Section office and continued down a long ways on Villa.

Seniors drove up to where staff gave them their caps and gowns while they remained in their vehicles. The PHS Student Council also gave gift packs which include a PHS T-shirt and PHS cup to the seniors.

“It’s brought out a lot of lessons in perseverance and resilience,” said Vanni about what the Class of 2020 has gone through.

PHS girls basketball assistant coach Sarai Bravo, who also teachers at the school, was out with a sign in support of the Panther girls basketball team who won the 2020 Valley title.

“I wasn’t able to see my girls for the last time in class,” Bravo said. “It’s special to see them get their cap and gown even though they can’t get their graduation.”

PHS principal Jose Valdez said the Class of 2020 has been a special class. “This class has been phenomenal,” he said. “They’re a great class. They deserve this and more.”

Valdez also praised his staff for putting Tuesday’s event together. “They really care about them,” said Valdez about the staff’s feelings toward their students. “They always go above and beyond.

“We wanted to make this occasion special for them. We know they’re missing out on a lot of normal experiences. We wanted to do this to let them know that we care and we wanted to give them a memory as well.”

Seniors Samuel Cesareo and Stephanie Ceballos came in their car to pick up their caps and gowns. “It makes me feel good and we get to see everyone,” Cesareo said. Even though it was just a drive-thru, Cesareo said it was still fun to see everyone.

“It’s sad we have to have our senior year like this,” Ceballos said. But Ceballos still had the perspective to say, “I’m really glad to be graduating.”

Both also expressed their appreciation for Tuesday’s event.

“It’s really cool,” said longtime PHS teacher and baseball coach Mike Hill about Tuesday’s event. “They will go down in history as probably the only class not to go through graduation ceremonies. They will definitely be remembered.

“We love our students. It’s really a sad time especially for these kids. This is a big time for them. It’s tough.”

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