Everyone loves a parade, especially this year’s Fontbonne Hall Academy’s class of 2020.
On Friday, May 15, the school’s entire senior class of over 100 students participated in a special car parade to mark their last day of classes that gave them the opportunity to celebrate with each other despite distant learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The line-up of cars started at 12:45 p.m. by the 69th Street Pier on Bay Ridge Avenue. They then drove along Shore Road to Fontbonne Hall Academy, 9901 Shore Rd.
The school was decorated with pictures of the 123 graduates along the fence, balloons and a banner. The cars were decorated as well.
Principal of Fontbonne Mary Ann Spicijaric discussed how the joyous day for the seniors came to fruition.
“Like all high schools, we were struggling to figure out how to give these kids a celebration and acknowledge what they’ve done during their four years in high school,” she said. “This idea came from two of our parents.”
After a parent approached her over Easter break and said a (parade) is something that she saw other high schools doing, they thought it would be great for us to do.
“We decided to connect it to today, which would’ve been their last day of classes for the seniors. We’ve been doing remote learning since mid-March,” she said. “We thought it would be a great way to celebrate the day. Usually, students do things in the courtyard like bring lawn chairs and tie dye their uniforms. We just thought it would be a great way for them to celebrate their last day as students in Fontbonne.”
Since the students started distant learning, it had been a difficult transition.
“We do Google media for classes and you could see the distance had taken its toll and not seeing their classmates and being with their friends,” Spicijaric said. “The smiles I saw today and the shouts of joy were amazing. Some of the mothers said this was their favorite day of all time and best time they ever had. When you hear things like that, you know you hit a home run.”
Parents were grateful that everyone came together to make the parade a success.
“I am so grateful to the wonderful faculty at Fontbonne for giving our children such a wonderful experience today,” said Christine Nelson. “For a few moments, we were able to get our minds off this terrible situation we are all in and made us feel full of joy and happiness as our girls reflected on their four amazing years at Fontbonne. It’s not the ending we dreamt of but it was very close.”
Students were equally thrilled.
“The car parade was truly a beautiful experience, especially being able to see all my fellow classmates and teachers,” added Isabella Gargano.
“Our senior year did not end as anticipated, but the Car Parade allowed us to come together and celebrate,” added student and Vice President and Senior of Fontbonne Hall Academy Brianna Alicandro. “The sound of the car horns and the enthusiastic crowd of friends, family, residents, and the wonderful Fontbonne staff along Shore Road was truly amazing. It was a happy and emotional experience. The display of our graduation pictures on our school fence made it more special and added to the beautiful, bittersweet day.”
Senior Coordinator for Class of 2020 and teacher Daniel Ugenti added that the parade was a team effort.
“Ultimately, it was a parent that came up with the idea,” he said. “There are a lot of drive by celebrations for birthday parties so that’s the impetus of where it came from. It was brought to our attention that we were looking for things that we could still do to celebrate our seniors. We really can’t do a lot of our traditional celebrations that we planned. We had to delay our prom. Graduation is going to have to be virtual for the time being, although we do have a lot of stuff rescheduled for August. We wanted to give them some sort or celebration. Today would’ve been their last day of classes for the seniors so we really wanted to make the day special for them. We came up with this idea of this car parade and so then Ms. Sosa met with parents and brainstormed ideas.”
The administration was also involved and reached out to the 68th Precinct to get help and they advised them which would be the most acceptable route.
“The mothers got balloons and they decorated the front of the school,” Spicijaric said. “We had a banner made that said ‘Fontbonne loves the Class of 2020.’ We had each senior’s picture blown up and laminated and put it all around the campus so I thought it was a real nice surprise for them.”
“They had been looking forward to what would have been a very happy time since September or even for years where they were underclassmen,” Ugenti added. “It was a way to celebrate them because they achieved a significant rite of passage and significant achievement by graduating high school. It was a nice way for us to do that.”
He added that they received,” Nothing but praise from parents that were part of it driving their daughters through the parade as well as something stationed around the school to cheer them on. A lot of the faculty said it was a wonderful and uplifting day.”
As the students and their parents were driving up to the school, people who were walking by in the neighborhood cheered them on.
“I don’t think the smile ever left my face,” Ugenti added. “To see them in person and not in a virtual classroom, even though it might be just a quick wave, was uplifting. It touches your heart to see them happy and get some semblance of celebration in these times.”
“It was heartwarming when they saw the school and were near the campus again,” Spicijaric said. “To see their desire to want to be near their teachers and campus was wonderful.”