TEMPLE TERRACE, Fla. (WFLA) – For students at Focus Academy in Temple Terrace, Tuesday was special – for many reasons.
The graduating class of 2020 celebrated via social distancing as their teachers held a party for them – drive-thru style.
Car by car, family by family, this graduating class of 17 seniors enjoyed every moment of this day.
So did their parents.
In fact, for many moms, words were hard to come by.
“I don’t know if I can talk without getting emotional,” said Diane Rodgers, whose outstretched arm gently wrapped around her son’s shoulder. “Russell has been in school since he was three-years-old, so this has been a long journey, but a very fun journey.”
Rodgers along with many parents had tears in their eyes and joy in their hearts. They tell 8 On Your Side this moment was a long time in the making.
“We are so proud of these young men and women. They are the most amazing people you’ll ever meet,” said Elisabeth Kraft, the school principal.
Focus Academy is a charter school, dedicated exclusively to children with developmental disabilities. This year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the teachers and staff knew how much the graduating seniors would miss the rite of passage of a senior party.
So, the faculty decided to throw a party for the seniors with social distancing in mind, while also ensuring the seniors got a chance to see their fellow classmates and teachers that they missed so much.
For Seth Howard, this was a day to celebrate, one he’s looked forward to for a long time. With a smile on his face, he shared with 8 On Your Side the incredible joy and happiness he felt.
“I’m super, super excited,” Howard told us.
When we asked him what his favorite part of the day was, he didn’t hesitate in sharing his answer. “Seeing everyone, seeing how proud I am, seeing how proud I am to be graduating this year 2020!”
His mother, Christina beamed while standing next to him adding
“He’s so happy today, he’s such a good, loving young man. I’m so proud of him!”
As a graduating senior, Seth joins his classmates as they end the school year social distancing during this COVID-19 crisis.
After being apart for the last few months, this moment is that much sweeter where this class can finally be together again.
“Having this drive-thru is so great,” said Christina Howard. “I mean, seeing everyone online is also great, but it’s not the same. Seeing people in person is amazing. They’re so happy. It’s nice to be back around people again.”
For this graduating class, it is a journey that’s not so much ending, but rather, ushering in a beautiful new beginning for the Focus Academy Class of 2020.
From all of us at 8 On Your Side, we’re so happy for you and so proud of your accomplishments. We’ll be rooting for you every step of the way!