OTTUMWA — Graduation weekend has arrived in Ottumwa, and on Friday volunteers were busy in Ottumwa Park setting up additional recognition for the Class of 2020.
GEAR UP Coordinator Barb Hanson and volunteers from the community were busy putting together and setting up signs for about 320 graduates, complete with name and photo.
The signs, Hanson said, will be set up through the paths around the lagoons in Ottumwa Park, allowing for the community to drive through and view them in a fashion similar to Holiday Nights ’N’ Lights.
“The seniors have missed out on their last moments and traditional celebrations,” Hanson said. “Any way that we can celebrate them is important.”
The project is funded and organized through GEAR UP, she said. “It was actually one of the student leaders’ ideas.”
Hanson wasn’t the only one out preparing the signs at the Jimmy Jones Shelter Friday morning. She was joined by volunteers from the Hy-Noon Kiwanis and additional volunteers from the Future Leaders Initiative as well as staff from the district were expected later in the day.
“It’s a great example of the school, community and different organizations coming together and letting them know we’re proud of them,” Hanson said of the graduates.
She said many organizations are coming together to celebrate the Class of 2020. Hanson said GEAR UP contracted with Lee’s Photography to create the signs and that the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation had a banner made to hang from a firetruck during the drive-up graduation ceremony Saturday and Sunday. Edd the Florist is donating flowers for each senior, she said, and Bridge City Realty sponsored a special graduation tab.
“I know it doesn’t replace a traditional ceremony, but our hope is that every act of support given demonstrates to our students and community how much we care about and celebrate them. It’s been amazing to watch everyone rally behind the Class of 2020,” Hanson said.
The signs will be on display in Ottumwa Park through the weekend. Cars should enter through RV entrance of Ottumwa Park, and the signs will be on display in alphabetical order. People are asked to remain in their vehicles as they drive through the display.
“For the students that didn’t have a senior photo, if we had one on file we used that,” Hanson said. “We wanted it to be as personalized as possible.”
Seniors and/or their families are then invited to return to the park from 4-7 p.m. Sunday to pick up their signs.
“This is an exceptional group of students that have become more resilient and stronger than ever, and I am confident each and every one of them will have a tremendous impact on the world,” Hanson said. “We’re all just very proud of these students and we just want to make sure they feel like they’re celebrated.”
“They’re going to be the most amazing and most remembered class for decades,” said Hy-Noon Kiwanis volunteer Connie Hammersley-Wilson. “The Class of 2020 will live in infamy.”