“We graduated from on top of a mountain!”
Graduating seniors from a high school in New Hampshire did more to celebrate their completion of high school than just a drive-by graduation with their friends, though they got that as well throughout this multiday event. Each student received their own private celebration with their loved ones from on top of a mountain.
The Kennett High School’s ski lift graduation at nearby Cranmore Mountain resort began with a scenic 10-minute ride to the top of the mountain where students found their diploma on a music stand and had their pictures taken at a podium with their guests. Next, the group meandered down a short path to a log hut for a second photoshoot.
“The backdrop there is just spectacular,” says Principal Kevin Carpenter. “But the best moment was when they rode back down the mountain because you can see everything, and it’s stunning. We couldn’t have scripted this any better. It was like everything just fell into place.”
Preparing a ski lift graduation
Once the site was chosen, planning graduation involved a core team of administrators convening every week and forming a larger group of students, parents, teachers and school board representatives to make sure every facet of the school had a voice.
School leaders first scouted the site in advance to put a preliminary plan in place and then again with photographers and videographers to build the logistics.
“Planning graduation was the biggest part of the process because we wanted to ensure we were following all of the health guidelines,” says Carpenter. This included allocating waivers in advance to students and contacting the department of education as well as the governor’s office.
Getting ready to ascend
On graduation day, students arrived at different times to keep the numbers down and stayed in their cars until 10 minutes prior to their time on the chair lift. Each group went up every two minutes.
“Students got to take up to four guests with them, and since these chairlifts carry four people, we separated them into groups of three and two in every other chair, never consecutively,” says Carpenter. “We had to have teachers volunteer to help make this happen.”
The sky’s the limit
The school stretched out the ceremony into a three-day event that began with publishing prerecorded videos of their graduation speeches and the scholarship awards on YouTube, which also aired on the local cable channel the night before the ski lift graduation.
On the third day, students rode in a caravan that started at the school and drove throughout the town. “That was the only time we put all of the kids together, so it was a nice way to finish,” says Carpenter.
“Not every community has a ski resort but every community has something to offer that will make graduation special,” he adds. “In fact, the kids didn’t feel like they were settling for this. Maybe we’ll rethink graduation going forward.”
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