High school graduation the movie; local drive-in saves commencement

The Gatesville ISD and the owner of the Last Drive-in Picture Show, in Gatesville, have come up with a plan to ensure graduating seniors get to walk the stage at commencement. (Last Picture Show photo)
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GATESVILLE, Texas (KWTX) The Gatesville ISD and the owner of the Last Drive-in Picture Show, in Gatesville, have come up with a plan to ensure graduating seniors get to walk the stage at commencement.

Gatesville Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Barrett Pollard said he and Dana Palmer, owner of the city’s renowned drive-in movie theater, hatched a plan to record video of the seniors, dressed in caps and gowns as they walk across the commencement stage individually to receive their diplomas, then edit those clips, along with the required speeches and awards presentations, into a virtual movie that will be shown on the drive-in’s giant screen for the seniors and their families to gather to watch.

“The Palmer family was extremely gracious in providing this opportunity and we are very appreciative for their kindness,” Pollard said.

The normal commencement ceremony still is scheduled for May 21, Pollard said, but “it likely will have to be canceled due to the state regulations on gatherings.”

Baccalaureate, originally set for May 21 at 3 p.m., also has been canceled, but the speaker, Central Texas College administrator Daniel Prather, has recorded his remarks and they’ll be posted online for everyone to watch, Pollard said.

The video commencement screening is set for 8:30 p.m. on July 24 at the drive-in on State Highway 36 in Gatesville.

“We wanted to make sure it was dark by the time the video started,” Pollard said.

For the most part, at least, the seniors say they’re excited about the whole thing.

“It’ll always be unique,” said Mason Edwards, salutatorian of the GHS Class of 2020.

“I think the virtual graduation is a great idea and it’s a great way to replace a more routine commencement ceremony,” Edwards said.

He’s scheduled to tape his salutatory address on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., he said.

The individual videos are scheduled to be recorded this week at Gatesville’s McKamie Stadium, which would have been the default location for commencement exercises, anyway, Pollard said.

Each senior will dress for graduation and show up at their appointed time with a family member, each will be called to the stage where the family member will present their diploma and it’s done.

Edwards’ salutatory address, the valedictorian’s address and the commencement address, plus presentation of annual awards to top graduates, all will be a part of the video, Pollard said.

At the completion of their videos, each senior will receive a pass good to admit one carload of people into the drive-in the night the show runs, where they can watch the entire ceremony.

Edwards says he’s going to Texas A&M where he plans to complete a degree in biomedical engineering, headed for veterinarian medical school.

Pollard said he’s elated that the district was able to construct a unique plan to accomplish commencement in a way that seniors would appreciate because he knows that walk across the stage is important, but he wants to make sure his students don’t lose sight of the real accomplishment here.

“The big thing is the diploma, whether you get it on stage or in the mail, it’s the fact that those young people have completed what likely was the first major lifer task they’ve ever taken on.

“Education is the basis upon which we all live our lives and that diploma means they’ve begun their life of learning.”