SHANNON • What was supposed to be graduation day for Shannon High School seniors turned into a candlelight celebration, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cars began to line up around 8 p.m. on Saturday evening as students and guests drove by and viewed candlelit bags in honor of the school’s 2020 graduating senior class.

Students and guests were advised to stay in their vehicles during the celebration and practice social distancing, in accordance with guidelines from CDC.

The candlelit bags were lined up in front of the school with the names of each graduating senior written on them.

English teacher Beth Barnes was over the graduation committee that helped put together the event for the seniors.

Barnes said she has been an educator for 20 years and is passionate about what she does, which is what motivated her to want to help do something to honor the students in a creative and memorable way.

“When you spend a third of your life at some place, it’s where your heart is and that’s why I want to do stuff like this,” Barnes said. “We wanted to make it memorable for them.

“I had them do some writings at the beginning,” she said. “They were so mad. They wrote they were mad and they felt cheated. Now, they’ve processed it, and they’re okay and they are better people from it. They’ve worked through something that they didn’t think they could, but they did.

“They’ve all worked very hard and I’m proud of them,” she said.

Barnes also credited and commended the hard work of the other members of the graduation committee.

“We started putting this together about 5 o’clock this afternoon. It took us right up until about 7:45 to put everything down.”

Barnes said one of the committee members is the school’s art teacher and she helped create the candlelit bags.

Shannon High School Principal Jason Arledge said it feels great to see students come together to celebrate during adverse times.

“It’s a great feeling,” Arledge said. “We’re big on Red Raider family, which means to pull together in times of adversity, and it means we pull for one another whether they’re (students) here on campus or out in the world. It’s a great thing to see them come and celebrate what would’ve been their original graduation day, but to do it in a way that shows the class and personifies what these students have been through throughout their four years of high school.”

Barnes said the school still plans to have its graduation ceremony on Friday, June 26 at 7 p.m. on Mike Scott Field. About 130 senior students are expected to graduate that day.

Specifics of the ceremony will be worked out and sent to parents and graduates as the date gets closer, based on the recommendations and guidelines from the governor’s office, Mississippi Department of Education, and Lee County School Board.

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