Patricia Hughes Harris of Sanderson and other Baker County High School graduates from the Class of 1987 missed one of the seminal moments in young adulthood.
Due to a bad storm, their graduation ceremony was cut short and they never walked across the stage at Memorial Stadium to receive their high school diplomas as friends and family cheered and congratulated them for the accomplishment.
“We lived nearby in Macclenny, so we walked to graduation,” recalled Ms. Harris, 43, who was joined by her mother and father that day. “But when it came time to walk, it started flooding. Severe flooding. We had to swim home.”
The most disappointing part, she said, was that her mother, who had been so adamant about Ms. Harris finishing school, never got to the witness the experience. For months afterward, Ms. Harris’ mom lobbied school officials, to no avail, to reschedule the ceremony.
“Nobody cared for years that the Class of 87 never had their graduation,” she said.
Now, 25 years later, it’s happening.
BCHS English teacher and the district’s 2012 Teacher of the Year Kelley Norman is organizing a 1987 graduation redux on May 31, one day before the Class of 2012 is set to graduate.
“Every class reunion they mourn the fact they never graduated,” said Mrs. Norman by e-mail recently. “They feel like they were deprived a fundamental rite of passage and I really do agree with them.”
It all started last year when Mrs. Norman spoke with Ms. Harris after her son, now 19 years old, graduated. The mother of four children, ages 11 to 24, began to tear up when talking about her mother and how she was the first in her family to finish high school.
“I knew that there were a class full of Patsys who really wanted to walk. And that was that … ,” Mrs. Norman said. She sought the blessing of Superintendent Sherrie Raulerson and soon began spreading the word at home football games last fall.
The graduation re-do will start at 7 pm at Memorial Stadium and should last about an hour unless all of the roughly 200 seniors from the 1987 class show up to participate.
Mrs. Norman said they’ll actually walk across the stage when their name is called, do the handshake and receive a faux diploma “like they should have 25 years ago.” She said the class’ valedictorian and salutatorian have been asked to speak as well as the class officers.
Ms. Harris’ mother is now 81 years old, suffers from dementia and resides in a Macclenny nursing home. She hopes dearly her mother will be well enough to attend the ceremony on May 31.
“It will mean so much to me,” said Ms. Harris. “If it wasn’t for her pushing me, I probably would’ve quit school.”
Graduates interested in participating in the May 31 ceremony may call Fay Sinclair at (904) 259-6286 for more information.
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