More than 3.5 million students in the U.S. are expected to graduate from high school this year. But, stay-at-home orders across much of the nation have put senior year activities on hold indefinitely. One principal decided to pay tribute to his students in a heartfelt way.
Three weeks after abruptly suspending classes at Vernon Hills High School in Illinois, alone in his office, principal Jon Guillaume grew frustrated.
“We didn't really let kids have much closure. They didn't meet as teams or as fine and performing arts groups. We just sent them home,” Guillaume said.
The coronavirus shutdown has put sports, prom and graduation in limbo, potentially robbing his students of pivotal milestones in their lives.
So, he decided to do something simple.
“[I] printed out a roster, alphabetized it,” Guillaume said.
He grabbed a marker and started writing.
“Started in the middle of the wall, got about 20 names, then went to the row above it, 20 more names,” Guillaume said.
Guillaume wrote each and every graduating student’s name.
“It took about 17 rows, probably three hours, to get all the names in there,” he says.
Three-hundred and fifty names in total.
“I got all the names and then covered over at least some of them with the letters for ‘senior,’” says Guillaume. “It's turned into a message of hope, like this is going to pass. You know this is difficult. This is sad. But you're gonna get past this.”
He posted the video online as a tribute to his students.
“I cried when I watched it,” says Vernon Hills high school senior Cece Schumacher. She says the simple gesture replaced uncertainty with hope. “Don't give up, because there is still hope and I know that it's hard right now, but we still have time.”
Guillaume proved to his students that in demanding times just being acknowledged can go a long way.
“That's really the message of the video,” he says. “Here you are as a class, individually, each of your names collectively. You are the class of 2020. And we haven't forgotten you.”