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Palo Alto's seniors celebrate an unconventional graduation from their cars, but not without joy

Original post made on Jun 3, 2020

On the night that would have been the class of 2020's graduation, Palo Alto's sidewalks and street corners were full of people cheering and waving as seniors and their families drove in an ebullient car parade around the city.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 3, 2020, 9:38 PM

Comments (28)

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2020 at 11:42 pm

I would like to see photos of graduates from other high schools besides Paly and to see photos of them in cars that were spirited enough to have decorations to emphasize the parade-like celebration. There were 3 Paly photos used, cars were bland, and there were many other students from other high schools that participated and rode in very decorated cars that would have made a more celebratory and exciting image for this extremely special occasion and this unique time. No need to rush publishing an article like this.

Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 4, 2020 at 1:05 am

@anonymous: The third picture was from Gunn. I know this because I teach at Paly and I know Kathie Laurence is the principal there. I also know this because the first three words in the picture's caption are "Gunn High School." Maybe some people aren't artistic enough or have enough disposable income to decorate their cars. Also, if you need other pictures so badly, you should have taken them yourself.

@All of the graduates: Congrats! We are all so proud of you. Huge thumbs for all of the BLM and related messages.

Posted by Really
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 4, 2020 at 3:02 am

Why couldn’t/can’t they slap together a summer graduation ceremony at the football field for social distancing and just video it live? All they would need would be Matt Hall, the principal, and students, no need for teachers. Matt Hall is going to teach at Gunn this fall with his wife, he was a funny MC. What student is going to want to return for a December graduation ceremony after having been away to college? They want to be done with high school. And December will be peak COVID time again.

Posted by Roy M
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 4, 2020 at 7:52 am

My younger daughter really wanted to celebrate even though we don't know any graduating seniors, so we checked out the parade. I think with all the bad news going on we just needed something cheerful. Thanks to the city for doing this and I hope the graduating seniors enjoyed it.

Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 4, 2020 at 9:37 am

@Really: Imagine two staff members trying to supervise 500 kids under normal circumstances. Now imagine them making sure all 500 kids stay at least 6 ft apart as they celebrate the end of a tumultuous year. There's no way that would happen. Also, no other school in the Bay Area of our size is having in an-person ceremony.

Posted by winter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2020 at 9:37 am

It was a fun and sweet and community spirited event that lifted everyone up. We were with friends out on an Arastradero corner as so many cars streamed by - many grads with and without families, bursting with smiles and pride. Some grinning, some yelling. Some cars decorated to the max and some with a couple of signs with names of grads. Caps and gowns - or not. So proud of my graduate grandson. Everyone so happy, and the people lining streets cheering going nuts, making noise, jumping up and down - everyone like kids. Lots of Black Lives Matters (cause they do) signs. Our community at our best, not scared, not paying attention to any curfew, but proud and happy and bravely looking to the future together.
Yea Palo Alto! Yea Grads!

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2020 at 10:01 am

What the seniors do not realize and I trust will appreciate more as they mature, is that they have experienced a unique opportunity to celebrate in a way that no other class has done and hopefully will never have to experience in the future.

When they tell their children in years to come of how they were different, show them the pictures of how they paraded in their cars, it will be something so very different from the normal graduation pictures.

It is down to attitude. If they feel that this was a second rate way of celebrating rather than sitting in the sun for 3 hours on a day with temps in the 90s and parents not even able to identify them as they waited for their moment to hear their name said on the PA system and walk across a stage for what, 15 seconds, just like every other high school graduate before them, then they are not thinking straight. Instead they have had the opportunity to do something new, different, unique, have a picture of a car instead of a cap flying in the air.

Attitude is everything.

Posted by nice
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 4, 2020 at 10:05 am

Great to see another picture of a student added from Gunn. And congrats to students from under represented Castilleja and Kehillah...

Posted by Mitchell & Jane
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 4, 2020 at 10:32 am

We were among the many on Arastradero Avenue who cheered the graduates as they rolled by in and on their well-decorated vehicles! While the caravan was not the same as a traditional graduation, this celebration -- unlike the usual campus graduations -- gave the graduates an opportunity to see that Palo Altans all around the city who they did not know cared about what they were going through, wished them well, wanted to celebrate with them in a small way, and recognized that their milestone was well-earned and worthy of respect. The many smiles we saw on their faces told us that they were taking in the message. Our warm good wishes for a bright future for all the graduates!

Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2020 at 10:44 am

I really have to disagree with Paly Teacher. If we don't think we can keep 500 young adults safe and 6' apart for graduation, then how do we expect to keep thousands safe when they return to school (and college!) in the fall? I've seen other schools holding graduation, if they can do it safely, then Palo Alto should be able to as well.

Posted by Grateful parent of a 2020 Grad
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 4, 2020 at 11:10 am

As the parent of a PALY 2020 Grad, I have to comment here. Initially, when I heard about the car parade, I thought to myself, "how can driving around the city possibly come close to replacing a long-awaited, traditional graduation ceremony?" I was wrong. The car parade was a wonderful event, with so many proud grads from all of the schools basking in the cheers, praise, smiles, and noise that the PA community showed up to provide, with so much enthusiasm. Driving by the school and seeing the teachers out with masks and signs meant to much to my daughter--even a wave or an "air hug" went a long way. The feedback from her friends was that the parade was way more special than they anticipated and truly felt celebratory. In the midst of a terrifying pandemic and a long overdue heated battle over racial inequality, it is perhaps naïve to think that any of our traditions will look the same. This was definitely different, but IMO, a huge success. Thank you, Palo Alto for showing up for the class of 2020. I have never been happier to be part of this community.

Posted by Screed
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 4, 2020 at 11:13 am

This should be the beginning of an annual tradition. What was really moving was to see graduates of four Palo Alto high schools driving together as one parade. And the fire truck! Look next year for more organization, more tricked-out cars, more noise makers, and more people applauding our graduates!

Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2020 at 12:47 pm

Are there any other pictures available? I would love to see some:) Huge congratulations to the Class of 2020!!

Posted by Really
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 4, 2020 at 12:58 pm

“Imagine two staff members trying to supervise 500 kids under normal circumstances. Now imagine them making sure all 500 kids stay at least 6 ft apart as they celebrate the end of a tumultuous year. There's no way that would happen.”

They are adults, not kindergarteners. And no Paly teachers would volunteer to show up and help? Teachers take their summer vacation that seriously? That’s disappointing. Parent volunteers would surely help.

”Also, no other school in the Bay Area of our size is having in an-person ceremony”

Lemmings attitude. We are in Silicon Valley, right?

They already have their caps and gowns, Paulson and Austin should reconsider. Friday, retail is reopening and the weather is warmer than December. The ceremony wouldn’t necessarily have to be 3 hours, just anything. I think in December, the attendance will be poor. I would have no interest in attending 7 months after high school ended.

Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 4, 2020 at 1:10 pm


Yeah, really. Look, everyone, including teachers, wants graduations to happen but it just won't work. Kids will be on edge forcing themselves not to hug their friends. After the ceremony, many might slip away and hangout with each other away from adult eyes. I saw some kids doing that after the parade yesterday.

Speaking of which, at least 60 of us teachers braved the beating sun to line El Camino and Embarcadero yesterday. How dare you question our loyalty to our kids? You're lucky PAO moderates these comments otherwise I'd tell you off as you deserve to be.

The ceremony doesn't have to be three hours? It would be at least a couple if we read the name of each graduate. Cut that out? Then kids would get a discounted ceremony.

Really, lemmings attitude? And invoking Silicon Valley? Give me a break. Show me one school that had an in-person ceremony for 500+ kids in Silicon Valley. If you think you can make a ceremony happen, put some more thought into it. Your shortsighted ideas are laughable at best. Go create a delivery-ready vaccine by next week, too, while you're at it. This is Silicon Valley, right?

Again, the entire Paly staff feels for our kids and wish we could hold a graduation for them but it just can't happen. Several parents and students have told me personally that they thought the parade would be a bust but after participating were happy they did. I hope the same will be true for a December graduation.

Posted by Wow
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2020 at 1:20 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Caroline
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 4, 2020 at 1:31 pm

Palo Alto showed up! I was so impressed to see so many people lining the streets to celebrate our graduates. It was very emotional and much needed support during this tough time. The city-wide parade was amazing--my senior loved it! I really hope it becomes a party of the senior tradition in Palo Alto. Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

Posted by Evelyn Aguon - Gunn alumni
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 4, 2020 at 1:32 pm

Congrats to all 2020 graduates!

Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 4, 2020 at 1:49 pm

@Wow: Not sure where you're hearing the yelling from.

You point out that I won't post my name, yet your name is Wow? Wow.

As for posting negative comments on what should be a happy thread, I did so to rebut other negative posts that were put up first to set the record straight. I don't see you calling them out on it.

One issue teachers deal with all the time is some members of the community expect us to be punching bags. They throw mostly unwarranted criticism at us incessantly, but when we try to stand up for ourselves, suddenly we're committing verbal assault.

Don't dish it out if you can't take it.

Posted by We loved it
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2020 at 1:51 pm

We made a sign and stood with our kids and cheered! It really felt like the whole community came together in an unexpectedly moving way.

Posted by Wow
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2020 at 2:40 pm

@Paly Teacher

[Portion removed.] There are good teachers at Paly no doubt, but many are disorganized like it's their first time to the rodeo, it stresses out the students. It's the same issue with law enforcement and the death of Floyd, now everyone is painting the police with a broad brush. I've had three children graduate from Paly so we have experienced many teachers. Deadlines which are too soon or incorrect test review sheets, it's all stressful. Even 9pm Schoology postings for something due the next day or quiz announcements late at night. Why would a teacher post so late at night an assume everyone reads it? It seems the AP classes are more difficult than Foothill classes because the Foothill instructors are more organized. Do you think that two years to tenure is enough? And what about the English teachers not assigning papers because they claim they don't have time to correct them? Corrected papers is the only way to teach proper writing skills. My first two had more papers assigned, but my last had almost no papers to write, consequently, his writing is deficient. I attended Paly in the 80s and the PAUSD English department taught us how to write every day in class from 7th grade to 12th and we wrote 1-page papers quite often. Now, most of the English teachers only teach analysis and don't return papers or no comments or worst, peer editing. Surely teachers in my day were correcting papers in the evenings without pay. Why do English teachers now demand pay for correcting papers? It's part of the job of being a good teacher. Are our teachers in this for the 6 figure salary? The teachers back in the day stayed after school, at lunchtime to teach; now, they leave right after school. Now, many of the teachers don't even stay for Tutorial, a dedicated time for students to seek help from teachers. Enlighten us since I have your ear. If our teachers are being paid over 100K, they should teach like they are.

Posted by Wow
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2020 at 3:03 pm

PAO editors deleted my real name. Oh, well.

My children said that their professors are much more organized and structured than their Paly teachers were, a lot less stress.

Posted by Brave?
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 4, 2020 at 3:28 pm

@Paly Teacher
A quick count of PAHS staff shows approximately 150 Paly teachers, principals and guidance counselors. This doesn't include classroom aides, custodians and most of the classified workers. Of those 150, you say there were 60 of you on the street in front of the school who "braved the beating sun" to cheer on students.

Yesterday at 6pm it was 82 degrees.

Had there been a real ceremony, you also would have been in the sun, but you'd have had a black gown on.

An attendance of 60 teachers out of more than 150, is a rate of about 40%. Thanks for coming out, but what about the other 60%?

News flash, kids are getting together on a regular basis. It will be interesting to see PAUSD's schooling plan for this fall.

Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 4, 2020 at 5:54 pm


I'm going to withhold my name. There are probably more people in PA with your name than there are teachers at Paly.

Your comment addresses a lot of topics so I'll just talk about a couple. Yes, it's very frustrating when teachers assign something due in 24 hours. Incorrect answers on keys are also frustrating but I think it's understandable if it's rare. It happens in college classes, too. Teachers not holding tutorial upsets those who do.


Actually, the Tower Building provides a lot of shade for teachers, graduates, and the stage, so we wouldn't have been in the sun. As for yesterday, someone did suffer heat exhaustion and had to be cared for by an RN.

Do I wish more teachers had shown up? For sure. But maybe they were heeding the heat advisory. Maybe they were worried about the pandemic. Maybe start asking questions with an open mind instead of an accusatory one.

Everyone is waiting with bated breath for the district's plan to reopen school. I hope you will receive it with an open mind and provide constructive feedback.

To all readers: I recognize you have your grievances against some teachers, some schools, and/or the district. I guess this is a forum for you to vent your frustrations, but I implore you do so with facts, not speculation, with questions that seek answers, not assume negative ones.

Posted by Another District Teacher
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2020 at 6:22 pm

@Paly Teacher
You must be a millennial teacher to be so full of spit and vinegar. I have two words for you: Glad-handling and appeasing. Practice both and you will have a long career. If you haven't already done so have a child and try to perceive things through a parent's eye. Then realize we are public officials and when we come off like unionized divas we poop on everybody else.Now go practice your blended learning pedagogy- you're going to need it.
"You're right parent, what the f#;* was I thinking?".

Posted by Another Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 5, 2020 at 1:31 am

Congratulations, Class of 2020! And thank you to my colleagues who could make the event, and especially those of you who organized it! I couldn't attend and make it back home in time for my city's curfew hours.

Posted by Karen H
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 5, 2020 at 12:23 pm

OK - someone asked for photos. My kids and I were at Greene MS with a huge group of supporters. We were taking photos of all kids (all schools) - both sides of the street. My kids have finished their photos. I'm desperately trying to finish mine. You can access the three websites from here:

There will be about 1500 photos (about 600+ to finish). If car windows were up, then we couldn't see the people inside and did our best. If some are blurry - we are sorry. There were so many kids. It was a JOY to be out there and see so many faces with smiles and tears. Congrats grads!

a resident of Professorville
on Jun 5, 2020 at 1:50 pm

I was so touched while seeing so many members of our community come out to cheer the graduates on. I rode in my son's car and saw first hand the cheering, dancing, guitar playing, water squirting, music blaring, hiking, popsicle tossing, and much more. Thank you all. If this becomes a tradition, I will be sure to go out in future years to cheer for your children.

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