Harding seniors say goodbye to high school

WARREN — The Warren G. Harding High School graduation, pre-recorded and screened at the Elm Road Triple Drive-In and online Thursday night, was a ceremony, “less like copy and paste than it normally is,” said senior Peyton Mann, one of six students who gave graduation speeches.

Mann said his speech focused on resilience and how the Class of 2020 has been able to face adversity head on.

The 267 graduates in the Harding Class of 2020 — the “class with a mask” as class President Precious Ball said in her opening address — were welcomed to the drive-in with roses and applause from teachers. The ceremony itself kicked off memorably with a fireworks display.

“I think it’s great,” graduate Elyssa Hawkins said before the ceremony. “It gives a sense of tradition, but at the same time it’s original in thought and in practice.”

For aspiring filmmaker Judit Angel, the drive-in graduation also offered an opportunity every young filmmaker wants — the chance to see her work on the big screen.

Angel made the Class of 2020’s senior video — a compilation of photos and videos set to two songs chosen by the senior class — which screened at the end of graduation.

“It’s very exciting. My friends were just talking to me about it,” Angel said. “It’s my first time having it on a big screen. Let’s hope that my future work gets up there, too.”

With a film camera drawn on the back window of her car, Angel said she will be attending Cleveland State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in film and arts.

She said her inspiration to pursue filmmaking comes from the movies she’s seen.

“It was just interesting seeing a bunch of people working together to make a really nice movie that could sometimes inspire other kids like me. There’s certain films that have inspired me, and that’s why I kind of leaned toward that track,” Angel said. She pointed to the 2015 film “The Revenant” and last year’s award-winning South Korean black comedy thriller “Parasite” as a few of her favorites.

Angel said she plans to focus on post-production work and film editing, which she said comes easily to her.

She was grateful to Warren City Schools for giving students the opportunity to graduate at the drive-in.

The full ceremony played on two screens and featured pre-recorded video of students walking across the stage to receive their diplomas, as well as honor’s addresses from Mann, Elyssa Hawkins, Cullen Faulk, Brendan Leecue, Giovanni Orr and Xavier Allen. A host of alumni also made appearances — including acclaimed trumpet player Sean Jones, class of 1996, performing the national anthem.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, Warren Mayor Doug Franklin and Warren City Schools Superintendent Steve Chiaro gave virtual remarks.

Warren G. Harding Principal Dante Capers said the ceremony was initially going to be fully virtual, but that changed when drive-in theaters were given the OK to open in early May. Through the efforts of many — including the school’s teachers, who saw students through remote teaching and the two-day recording of the ceremony — the event came together.

“The students are excited to be here,” Capers said as cars rolled into the drive-in. “We’re really fortunate and blessed things have come together the way they have.”


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