MADISON — The Daniel Hand High School parking lot looked like the lot at a drive-in movie theater, as graduates and their families viewed the commencement on a large projection screen and listened from their cars.

Valedictorian Ruby Redlich noted how COVID-19 altered not only the ceremony, but also the school year for the 279 members of the class of 2020.

“I would have believed many things before you told me a global pandemic would cancel the last trimester of our senior year and change our daily lives so dramatically,” she said.

For Principal Anthony (T.J.) Salutari, the highlight of the evening was greeting each family as they arrived for commencement.

“It was really unique and actually a nice moment for me, where I got to talk to every single family who showed up with their graduate, he said. “That was probably one of the most special two-hour moments of that event.”

The ceremony was followed by a 2-mile parade from Daniel Hand High School to the Madison town green. This was a very emotional moment for many, including Madison parent Nancy Finke.

“As we drove the parade route to the green, I was so overwhelmed by the community support,” said Finke, mother of graduate Cole Finke.

“All the people that came out, the little kids with signs; there were families with bells and pots and pans and they were cheering, holding signs up to support the kids. It was completely moving. It was so beautiful to see that support from the community.”

Salutari shared this sentiment.

“The parade was a huge hit,” he said. “I think we’ll get asked, no matter what we do in the future with setup and process, to always finish with a parade, which I think is a good idea.”

Connecticut Media Group