Coronavirus: Florida principal displays portraits of graduating seniors on school’s driveway

GRACEVILLE, Fla. — A high school principal in Florida, aware that the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench into the school’s graduation plans, came up with a special way to honor the class of 2020.

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Farica West, principal at Poplar Springs High School in the Panhandle town of Graceville, contacted Josh Mattox, the photographer who took senior photos for the school yearbook and had the pictures blown up. The 30 portraits, now the size of banners, adorn either side of the drive that leads to the school, WMBB reported.

“I called (the photographer) up and I said, ‘What can you do for our kids?’ I really envision in my mind their senior portraits laying down the driveway,” West told WMBB.

Soon, the banners, measuring 45 inches by 33 inches, were lining the drive. West said it was a way for her to give back to the students who had their senior year disrupted.

“I felt (for these students) both as a mother and as the girl I used to be who dreamed of her senior prom, her last softball game, her graduation,” West told “All of those moments for these kids were wiped away with no closure nor end in sight."

The banners were an immediate hit. People who do not even live in Graceville came by to look at the displays, West said.

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“People who don’t even have students here, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi … have driven over just to drive through and see and honor our students,” West told WMBB.

The graduating students at the school appreciated the gesture.

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“Seeing this display is really, really encouraging because you start to see that everything that you’ve worked for is not a complete waste,” Peyton Brannan told WMBB.

“I pass by my school every day I go to work and every time I look out there I just get to see the banners and everything else and just see our faces out there on the drive. So it is definitely something that gives you comfort,” Dalton Wilkinson, another senior at the high school, told the television station.\

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“I saw entire families get out of their cars cry, hug, snap a photo. I saw hope on their faces,” West told Parade. “At that moment, in the middle of these cotton fields, I knew we were truly in the midst of something special. It was something no pandemic, no quarantine -- nothing could ever take from these seniors and their families.”

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