With just two days to go before Wilton High School marks graduation for the members of the Class of 2020, there’s a palpable excitement building in town. It’s almost poetically fitting to look toward such a celebration after three highly unusual months of COVID-19 pandemic related fear, confinement and disruptive isolation, and a difficult path to get to the goal line. Finally, Wilton is excited to focus on something universally positive.

Graduation is set to begin at 1 p.m. this Saturday, June 13, although this year’s event will look like no other WHS graduation that has come before it. Because of coronavirus concerns, commencement won’t take place in the WHS stadium. Instead, the graduates and their families will have to keep socially distant in their own cars and form a car procession through town, past three schools the students attended during their academic careers in Wilton.

The route will take them from Allen’s Meadow, heading southbound on Rte. 7/Danbury Rd., and turning right on Ridgefield Rd./Rte. 33. They’ll continue up Ridgefield Rd. until they turn right onto Middlebrook Farm Rd. and right again on School Rd. They’ll make their way down the hill, past Middlebrook and Cider Mill Schools, and then turn left onto Kristine Lilly Way. There, the graduates will head straight to the high school, where administrators will await them at four separate ‘stations’ outside the school to present their diplomas.

Residents are encouraged to cheer on the graduates along the route–with town and school officials reminding everyone to keep social distance and safe protocols for group size and mask-wearing. [Editor’s note:  we’ll have an update from the Wilton Police Department about traffic control and rerouting plans in an upcoming story.]

Some residents have started to celebrate the Class of 2020, even those who are not on the route the procession will take. One such Wiltonian, Anne D., was motivated after reading an article in GMW about the senior class to adorn her driveway with chalk artwork to congratulate the graduates. “I was so touched by your … discussion with WHS students that I decided to chalk our driveway in their honor, even though we are not on the grads’ ceremonial drive path. We have no one graduating but I was mightily impressed by these young people.”

There will be a virtual graduation ceremony, with speeches and presentations that would have been delivered in person if the event had been traditional. Each of the graduates’ names will be read as their pictures are shown. That will debut at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 13, on YouTube, here:

Editor’s note:  there will also be a live-stream video of the graduation. GOOD Morning Wilton will share that link as soon as it is available.

Plans call for decorations and balloons at the high school, and banners with the graduates’ photos will line Kristine Lilly Way.

In addition, other signs and decorations are starting to appear around Wilton. Along with some congratulatory signs planted by a group of dads around Wilton Center with the message, “The Best is Yet to Come,” a banner (designed by WHS senior Patrick Burke) was hung on the Gazebo on Town Green.

The high school has some new signage as well–crisp, navy and white banners hung from lampposts around the school campus. These were a gift from the Class of 2019.

Class Gift, PGP Theme and Video

On Tuesday, seniors were treated to a surprise visit at home, as school administrators and teachers went to each of the graduates’ homes to individually present their cap and gowns. Parent volunteers were also on hand to present the students with their class gift–a beautiful travel bag embroidered with the map coordinates for Wilton. Inside were several items, including a t-shirt bearing what would have been the theme for this year’s Post Graduation Party, “Tribe Fest 2020.” The back of the t-shirt read, “Home is where your tribe is,” all a play on the word used by the school community to capture the sense of belonging to the WHS family.

[To see photos from the gift presentations, visit the PGP 2020 Instagram feed.]

Inside the bag was a letter written from parents of the seniors, with words of advice, encouragement and love.

“You were born in the shadow of 9/11 and now are graduating during a defining part of history. By “staying home” and sacrificing you have played a large role in helping the world heal and that is a big deal! You have been part of a community, a tribe, not only on a local level but now, also on a global level, coming together to fight this pandemic and to help and support each other.

“While faced with this crisis not only have you survived, but you have found ways to be innovative, resilient, generous and compassionate. So now more than ever, after having more than enough “home time,” you are ready to move on from your Wilton Tribe and embrace all the world has to offer.

“You are and always will be part of the Wilton Tribe, but your Class of 2020 is special. Your path was altered. You were forced to dig deep and readjust… Go out and conquer the world, but always know you can return to your tribe.”

The letter included a QR code that linked to a YouTube video, with recorded messages from the wider Wilton community–businesses, town officials, and familiar faces the graduates would know from growing up in town. There were also messages from teachers–all of the kindergarten teachers who taught the class recorded messages (even some who had retired) as well as other teachers they had through the years at Cider Mill, Middlebrook and WHS.

With one swift gesture, the gift and the video helped almost erase the three months of isolation and disappointment for the seniors, who may have lost out on so many traditional experiences like prom and a senior barbeque, but discovered something bigger and more heartfelt–community and connection, memory and love. They were reminded that they were not alone; they saw how many people have been with them through every step of their journeys. They retraced steps and found familiar faces, remembered experiences and shared trials and triumphs. Even though they’ve been out of school without physical proximity, they were reminded that they’ve never really been–and will never be–alone.