Westlake Class of 2021 celebrates at in-person graduation Monday night

Seniors from Westlake High School walked across the stage to receive their diplomas last week in a closing and celebratory moment that many feared might not come to fruition with the uncertainties surrounding group gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Audrey Lingan, the student body vice president who hosted the launch at the Frank Erwin Center, said it was a relief to celebrate in person after a year of mostly virtual events.

“To get a degree in person, it’s like our class has. After everything that’s happened this year with COVID, and Texas was completely frozen in February, to meet all of these challenges and to be able to celebrate and be together, it’s indescribable, ”she said.

Lingan, who plans to study biology on a pre-medical track at Vanderbilt next fall, has spent most of this year learning practically from home, with the exception of the last month of school. She said going back to campus and attending end-of-year events like prom and graduation was like “waking up from a daze.”

“All of the pandemics happened during the spring break of the junior year,” she said. “Sometimes I joke with people and say we’re on an extended spring break. To be back in person, things finally feel real again. “

Lingan said she was especially happy that her grandparents were able to fly to the event after not seeing them much over the past year.

“It feels good not to let this pandemic take away something else,” she said. “There have been so many losses throughout the year and it’s good that we can celebrate one of the biggest milestones in our class.”

Nolan Amblard was also taken away this school year and was happy to have the opportunity to see his classmates and their families one last time. Amblard, who plans to study aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech, was the Salvatorian of his class, meaning he was ranked second after Major.

“(Graduation) is the last chapter of my high school career,” he said. “This is the last time I can see everyone in the same place. I can see their families as I walk across the stage. It’s like living through the memories of the past four years, and it’s much better to do it in person.

Felix Chen, the vice president and president of the student body, said he was very excited to walk across the stage and see his friends at graduation after spending most of this year online. Reflecting on his experience in high school, Chen said he appreciated the opportunity to explore different activities and learn about his passions – in his case, student government, Latin, and IT were big three.

Chen, who goes to Harvard to study government, said his greatest pride in high school was creating an online platform for student organizations to post volunteer opportunities and for students to register and follow. their hours of service. Her advice to current and future high school students was to take the time to find a community, wherever it is.

“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to experience this, during my four years at Westlake,” he said. “I hope other students can try new things and meet new people and find out what excites them and what they want to be a part of.”

After the graduation ceremony, students returned to campus for the graduation project, which is part of a national program launched by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to promote safe graduation nights. Participating students stayed on campus from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. and if they left early, their parents would be called and forfeited the chance to win home prizes and $ 100 in cash, according to organizing parent Emily Fournier. .

Teagan Craft rides a mechanical bull during the Westlake High School graduation party, a lockdown party held after official ceremonies.  Last year's celebration was canceled due to the pandemic, but this year more than 500 seniors enjoyed each other's company before starting their new journey.  Craft will be heading to the University of Georgia in the fall.

This year’s event was a hybrid outdoor affair with a casino, silent nightclub, mechanical bull and hypnotist, she said.

Fourneir said the planning of the project’s graduation and the start itself gave the community the opportunity to come together and celebrate the class of 2021.

“My oldest has not been on campus since last March,” she said. “This is the first time my graduate has been seeing their entire class together since 2020, so it’s great to be able to celebrate that we got through this together.”

Westlake High School graduates lined up to be told their fortunes on tarot cards at the project's traditional graduation party.  The event included food stations, casino tables, music, dancing, rides, photo stations, games, and craft tables.

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