‘We will go down in history’: Amherst County graduates experience commencement from their cars

AMHERST, Va. – COVID-19 and social distancing meant Amherst County High School had to get creative with its graduation plans.

The solution played out on Saturday: A formal commencement, but every graduate stayed in a car with their loved ones.

“It was a no-brainer for us to do something like this for them," Brown said. "We’ll do anything for our kids.”

Senior class president Zamire Andrews said he worried about how his high school days would end after COVID-19 cut Amherst County’s school year short. He says the commencement on wheels measured up to all of his expectations.

“Seeing all of these cars celebrating with balloons and markers and stuff, it’s awesome," Andrews said. "We will go down in history, and I like that aspect of everything as well.”

The Class of 2020 drove up to the stage one by one, while teachers lined the street to cheer them on. That included the parents of Kamryn Johnson, a girl hit and killed by a car at 11 years old who would have been part of this graduating class.

While the graduates spent most of the ceremony in cars, they did physically walk across the stage. However, there were no handshakes, and graduates returned to their cars directly after their walk.

The ceremony became a metaphor for resilience, a point class valedictorian Summer Hensley mentioned in her speech.

“While hard times are inevitable, staying stuck in them is not," Hensley said.

Andrews said he’s happy he could cap off his high school life in style, and the fact a ceremony happened at all is reason enough to be proud of his hometown.

“I’m still a kid from Amherst, and right here, this is just us coming together as a whole family," Andrews said.