Reopening New Jersey: Linden High School students get drive-thru graduation for the ages

NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- An airport in New Jersey turned into a grand venue Wednesday, hosting a post-graduation drive-thru celebration for the Class of 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic canceled many in-person graduations, with social distancing requirements preventing the group gatherings of a normal ceremony.

But Linden Airport stepped up to provide an alternative for Linden High School students and their families to celebrate their special day.

"This COVID-19 has basically cheated children out of a graduation, a prom, and all the other activities that they were accustomed to," Mayor Derek Armstead said. "We felt that we had the facilities to be able to accommodate and pull something like this off."

The Linden High School commencement was held virtually on Tuesday and included all the elements of a tradition graduation, including speeches from student leaders, school and community officials, student awards, and recognition of each of more than 400 graduates one by one.

It also included over 200 candid celebration photos submitted by students and their family, with school officials saying the Class of 2020 will be remembered long after the graduates have moved on.

Then, on Wednesday, the drive-thru event took over the normally unused south ramp area.

"I think this was a great idea," graduate Naomi Borjmatta said. "I think that this is going to be unforgettable. It's a great feeling to have a graduation in this pandemic."

The more than 400 graduates said they felt even a unique graduation experience was worth having.

"I feel like this was a good experience, and I'm happy that we had something at least instead of having nothing," graduate Smarter Bowser said. "The learning experience from home wasn't that bad, but I'd rather be at school."

The airport remained open for tenants and transients, with access to tie-downs, hangars, and fuel unaffected and Linden police directing traffic.

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