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Commencement ceremonies, pandemic-style: Millbrook Blazers celebrate their graduation

MILLBROOK — Graduation, 2020, will be one to remember. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Millbrook Central School District sought to make it special for the students who missed so much of their senior year. So many joined in to make this year’s graduation day special, and the Class of 2020 was extremely grateful.

The graduation ceremony itself mirrored many others around the country; a motorcade, starting at Elm Drive Elementary School, where many of the students started their formal learning. But this was much more than a motorcade, this was a full parade, with decorations, lights, several local police cars and fire engines sounding their sirens, and streets that were lined with well-wishers holding signs, flags and balloons. Vehicles drove past the Village Green, where each student saw a portrait of themselves proudly displayed, a gift from the Millbrook Education Foundation. 

Then, the parade made its way past the firehouse and Alden Place Elementary School, coming to rest in the parking lot between Millbrook Middle School and Millbrook High School. The 80 or so cars in the parking lot included one car for each graduate; the rest were for staff and special guests in the program.

After the program, which included the keynote speaker, former Superintendent of Schools Philip D’Angelo, who was chosen by the students, and speeches by valedictorian Halie Every and salutatorian Tessa Fountain, and awards, diplomas were handed out to the grads. With the sun setting behind them, it made for a lovely and memorable scene.

One day earlier, on June 17, the Bridge Authority celebrated Millbrook’s seniors as the Mid-Hudson Bridge lit up in blue in honor of the Class of 2020.

The Millbrook fire department and Walbridge Farms in Millbrook got together and under a bright blue tent, served hot dogs, hamburgers and other food to the seniors on Thursday, June 18, as they picked up their caps and gowns. Millbrook teachers Michelle Cring, Maureen Ackerman and Cindy Rozenweig provided gift bags for each senior filled with items to decorate their cars for the motorcade. School nurse Juliana Zengen passed out face masks made and donated by the Millbrook PTO for each graduate.

There were other motorcades to celebrate Blazers graduating this year; Millbrook teachers and staff spent two days going by each seniors’ home, taking pictures with their families, pets, or sometimes alone, to post on a school website created to highlight a senior and his or her accomplishments each day.

Also getting into the act, Fudgie’s Ice Cream in Amenia, which  offered a free ice cream to each senior as a special congratulatory treat. And a large stone was donated to the senior class by Stone Resource in Amenia, owned by Sam and Erin Bailey. It was delivered to the school, at the foot of the hill that leads to the athletic field, by Frank and Amiee Duncan, owners of Northwest Lawn and Landscaping in Millerton, who donated their time, equipment and labor to facilitate the project.  The students painted the  boulder white and decorated it with their hand prints as a gift for future seniors at the school.

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