Banners placed along Michigan Avenue in Grayling to honor the Class of 2020

Banners were placed on light poles on Michigan Avenue in Grayling to honor the achievements of the graduating Class of 2020, which was forced to sacrifice and forgo many end-of-the-year activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The effort was spearheaded by Project Graduation for the Class of 2020.
Normally, Project Graduation provides a safe celebration for graduates to gather one last time to make some memories before they go their separate ways.
Heather Green, the president of Project Graduation, said a plethora of activities were planned this year, but had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus, a highly contagious and sometimes deadly respiratory disease.
The last day for seniors to attend classes at the Grayling High School was slated to be a half of a day on Friday, May 22.
Doughnuts were going to be served in the morning to seniors in the parking lot, then they were going walk through the Grayling Elementary School and Grayling Middle School wearing their caps and gowns so the students could see them.
The students were then scheduled to come back to the Grayling High School to make their senior video and have a picnic and barbecue lunch.
From there, the seniors were scheduled to go to the Grayling Band Boosters Carnival, which has been hosted on Memorial Day weekend in front of the Grayling Mini Mall for a fundraiser, so they could have their own time on the rides and take part in the attractions.
After the band students played at the carnival, all seniors were going to be bused to Central Michigan University (CMU) for a stay at the Student Activity Center,  a mecca for recreational activities including bowling, swimming, and basketball.
The activities offered to seniors were going to be bolstered by Michigan National Guard’s inflatable obstacle courses and Sumo  wrestling inflatable outfits.
Food was supposed to  be brought in for the seniors to dine on.
“We had Olive Garden and Qdoba all set up and we were going to have that all catered in,” Green said.
All of Project Graduation had to be cancelled due to a ban on social gatherings and social distancing requirements.
“It was going to be fun,” Green said.
CMU officials gave Project Graduation leaders a June time-frame for when the college could potentially reschedule activities.
“We can’t schedule that far out,” Green said. “Kids are going into the military, leaving, and all that.”
Instead, Project Graduation board members and parents who have volunteered throughout the year decided to have the banners made and put up after seeing similar initiatives to honor graduates in other communities.
There are 45 banners adorning the light poles on Michigan Avenue, featuring the pictures and names of the 86 graduates and three foreign exchange students who are seniors this year. The banners are double sided and recognize each senior in the Class of 2020.
It was a coordinated effort to get all the photos. Some came from the Grayling High School yearbook. Others were obtained by Green, Grayling High School Principal Sarah Allen, and Mark Binert-Armstrong, an art teacher who coordinates the production of the yearbook.
“It was going to be all or nothing,” Green said. “We wanted every student up there.”
The Xpress Copy Center in Grayling produced the banners.
Project Graduation leaders arranged to get the banners up through Kyle Bond, the director of the City of Grayling’s Department of Public Works. The department is working with half a crew during the pandemic while the rest are furloughed to save taxpayer funds.
The banners were put up following Memorial Day.
Some brackets, which hold the banners, had to be moved and zip ties were used to secure them in place.
“I was impressed. It only took them two days to get all the banners up,” Green said. “We were very thankful, because we wanted them up before graduation.”
Graduates Katie Snider and Ben Snyder had their banners placed at the intersection of Norway Street and Michigan Avenue.
“I think it’s a really cool idea,” said Katie, who is pursing to study  pre-medical studies  at Northern Michigan University. “I really appreciate it. I think it was a really nice way to commemorate this.”
Ben said he appreciated the banners recognizing the senior class.
“I like them. I think they were a good decision,” he said.
He said graduation comes with some bittersweet emotions, but added that community leaders did the best they could given the current circumstances.
“I’m a little disappointed, but they did a good job making up for it,” Ben said.
Ben plans on attending Michigan Technological University in the fall to study computer engineering.
“The school year didn’t play out how we thought it would, but it’s coming to an end and I’m ready for the next step,” he said.
The banners will remain in place for about a month to prevent them from being faded by the weather.
Connie Beard, the owner of Xpress Copy, will separate the banners, so that they can be given to the graduates.
Green acknowledged everyone for bringing the project together to recognize the seniors.
“We just felt it was so important. They had already lost so much with prom being cancelled, not being able to have a normal graduation, not being able to have the traditional last day of school,” Green said.   “We just felt we had to do something to recognize these kids  for their accomplishments for the last 13 years. It was a no-brainer. They said let’s get it done.”
Nicholas Green, the son of Heather and Jim Green, is among the graduating class. He plans to attend CMU in the fall to major in physical education and minor in coaching
Green said she has received a lot of positive feedback from Grayling citizens regarding the banners and has seen a number of photos with the graduates next to the banners.
“I think it’s brought them a little cheer to these depressing times that  they have gone through the last couple of months,” she said.
As part of a limited graduation ceremony held at the Grayling High School on Sunday, May 31, seniors were given bags purchased with funds donated by an area resident. The Viking Green bags featured an image  of toilet paper rolls representing the zeros in Class of 2020 to make light of the hoarding of toilet paper as the coronavirus started impacting the nation. The bags were filled with CMU lanyards and pens, snacks, gift certificates from Northbound Outfitters, gift cards for fast food restaurants, snacks, candy, and cash from Project Graduation. The yearbooks for the seniors were also placed in the bags.
“On behalf of everyone from Project Graduation, we just want to congratulate our seniors on a job well done,” Green said. “We know this is not how they expected their year to end, but we hope for that we’ve done for them  brought a little bit of cheer,  and they can now look to the future and move forward, and put this all behind them.”
Green acknowledged Rachel Hilliker, the secretary for Project Graduation, Sarah Osga, the treasurer for the organization, and Julie Bluemlein, who organized the Bubble Soccer as the first fundraiser of the school year for Project Graduation.
A new grill was purchased with some of the funds raised for Project Graduation for the Grayling High School’s athletic department on behalf of the Class of 2020.
Project Graduation was started for Grayling High School seniors over two decades ago to give students a safe drug and alcohol free celebration.
“It kind of gets them together one last time before they all go in their separate ways on to what they’re going to do whether it’s going into the military, college, or working,” Green said. “It’s time for them to celebrate, but we want them to do safely and not go into the woods and drink and throw parties.”

Crawford County Avalanche

Mailing Address
Box 490
Grayling, MI 49738

Phone: 989-348-6811
FAX: 989-348-6806

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