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A memorable graduation ceremony for Springdale Prep’s Class of 2020: ‘We’re making the best of it’

NEW WINDSOR — August isn’t a month associated with high school graduations, but 2020 is proving that anything goes.

Select faculty and staff at Springdale Preparatory School weren’t about to let the coronavirus pandemic keep them from having this year’s ceremony for the eight students that made up the Class of 2020. Colleges and careers are calling, some as early as next week. So Springdale gathered Thursday in the auditorium inside the former New Windsor Middle School building for the private school’s second commencement ceremony.

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The Lions’ Class of 2020 is made up of Auston Bailey, Hunter DiStefano, Joshua Mathews, Sydnea Parry, Aaron Peete-Bey, Eric Peete-Bey Jr., Mason Waltrup, and Kayla Witcher.

“Parents, grandparents, you have my highest regard for a job well done,” deputy head of school Lorraine Fulton told the small group of family members in attendance to start her commencement address. “You did this, in partnership with your child’s teacher and support staff through at least 13 years of schooling. ... Our focus now is on our Springdale seniors, and they are about to become distinguished alumni.”

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Graduate Auston Bailey poses for a photo with his family following Springdale preparatory School's commencement ceremony Thursday, August 6, 2020.
Graduate Auston Bailey poses for a photo with his family following Springdale preparatory School's commencement ceremony Thursday, August 6, 2020. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

Springdale president Ashley Yuan served as master of ceremonies, and presented each senior with a diploma following Fulton’s speech. Before the graduation ceremony began, school officials worked together to make sure the event was set to run smoothly.

Tyrone Johnson, dean of students and the school’s boys basketball coach, led the group in prayer before Fulton’s speech.

It wasn’t a customary gathering, but Springdale was on display.

“Naturally, you’d love to be able to open it up to all family members,” said Neal Roop, director of special operations at the school. “It is being streamed [online], so they will at least be able to see it. The fact that we’re having graduation, I think, is extremely important. ... We’re making the best of it.”

Valerie Tucker, office manager and works on human resources at Springdale, agreed with Roop. Tucker was instrumental in planning and organizing the event, Roop said.

The graduation was slated to be streaming via Facebook and YouTube, Tucker said. The ceremony was moved indoors to account for inclement weather, and Roop said because the facility is county-owned they had to limit attendance to no more than 50 people.

Each senior was allowed four family members to accompany them at the ceremony, with essential school staff only as well.

“It’s a great experience,” Tucker said. “I think they’re excited that their family members can see it online.”

Bailey, who played basketball and was a team captain last season, said his senior year won’t be soon forgotten. Bailey helped the Lions notch a signature win in February when Springdale beat SPIRE Academy, a renowned program that boasted prized recruit LaMelo Ball. Bailey scored 31 points and added five rebounds in the Lions’ 64-58 win (they lost to SPIRE by 81-68 in their season opener).

“It’s been very hard,” Bailey said about the last four-plus months amid the pandemic. “I’ve been trying to work out, but no gyms are open. They took the rims down from my court, so I can’t go outside. It’s just been rough.”

Bailey said he was excited about getting the chance to be present for a graduation ceremony, as did fellow senior Sydnea Parry. Bailey said he’s headed to McDaniel College to continue his hoops career, while Parry is bound for St. Mary’s in southern Maryland.

She didn’t plan at the start of her senior year on having to wear a face covering that accompanied her maroon graduation attire, but Parry has plenty of memories to carry with her going forward.

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“It has been really crazy,” said Parry, a New Windsor native. “Online school was crazy. A lot of Zoom calls. A lot of emails. I had to set a bunch of alarms so I wouldn’t oversleep and not miss classes.”

Dr. Lorraine Fulton, deputy head of school, applauds graduates during Springdale Preparatory School's graduation ceremony Thursday, August 6, 2020.
Dr. Lorraine Fulton, deputy head of school, applauds graduates during Springdale Preparatory School's graduation ceremony Thursday, August 6, 2020. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

Fulton recognized each senior during her speech and praised them for their hard work and dedication during a school year. Then it was Yuan’s turn to officially present the Class of 2020 ― each student stood and faced their families, and moved their tassels to the other side of their caps to signify their completion of high school.

“Our Springdale school is young,” Fulton said. “It is filled with promise, and has already met unbelievable challenges on its trajectory toward becoming one of the most successful and highly respected private schools in Maryland.”

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