CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The second semester of senior year is full of milestones that lead up to one big moment: walking the stage and receiving a diploma.
Flour Bluff High School seniors, still hopeful they will still get that experience, picked up their graduation garb Wednesday morning.
It's just one of many events that have been altered because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cap and gown pick-up usually happens inside the school, but instead, students drove up to the designated location, showed identification, received their graduation gear and drove away.
Balfour owner Chris Wildman says the company has still been able to make most of its deliveries to schools across South Texas.
“It’s been emotional too," he said. "We’ve had moms crying and it’s just a heartbreak to see it. We're in the business of making memories. We’re just thankful to be here and share in this excitement that these seniors are having today.”
It's a big deal for Flour Bluff seniors such as C.J. Howe, who called it a surreal experience.
"I'm not sure if I'm ever going to get to use this, but now I have it," he said. "Of course, I got home and put it on. Sent pictures to my friends and was like 'Hey guys, this is my cap and gown. This is so cool!"
Howe said all of the changes and 'unknowns' have been difficult for the Class of 2020.
"The last half of your senior year is supposed to be the fun part," he said. "Having fun with your friends because you know it's about to end. And so that's really hard. As a senior, usually, you get to prepare for it. You have your graduation date coming up. But this year, it just stopped all at once."
Flour Bluff senior Jolene Puumale hopes to end the year alongside her friends.
"I want to see them again and say one final goodbye before all this is over," Puumale said. "I hope that people will see this as an opportunity to come out of it stronger and just make the most of it."
Howe is hoping to finish out his undefeated soccer season with his teammates, and, of course, walk the stage.
“The superintendent promised a graduation," he said. "We just don’t know what it’s going to be like. So I’m trying to stay positive and keep my head up."
Howe had a word of encouragement for any worried seniors.
"I know it’s kinda stressful right now and you don’t know what’s going on," he said. "But it’s all gonna work out in the end no matter what. It’s gonna be stories you can tell your kids, ya know? That’s what I’m thinking."
Other area districts like CCISD have announced alternate graduation dates.
Gregory-Portland ISD announced Wednesday that if students return to school May 4 as scheduled, its graduation ceremony will take place at 7:30 p.m. May 22 at the American Bank Center, as previosuly scheduled.
If students go back later, a contingency plan would move the ceremony to 7:30 p.m. July 10 at the ABC. The district said additional contingencies are in place, if needed.
G-PISD also is asking parents who would like to recognize seniors to complete a questionnaire and submit a photo and/or short video.
The information must come from the parent's verified email account in Skyward Family Access because the recognition will be made public. For more information, see www.g-pisd.org/seniors [track.spe.schoolmessenger.com]