A North Carolina high school principal found an unconventional way to celebrate his school’s senior class after their final year was disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis.
West Craven High School Principal Tabari Wallace wanted to do something special for the class of 2020 after the rest of the school year was canceled. On Monday, he held a parade to celebrate 220 graduates whose prom, commencement ceremony and other senior activities were canceled or postponed. The event spanned 485 square miles and covered 14 routes, according to EdNC. Volunteers and escorts included teachers, law enforcement, school administrators and firefighters.
Wallace wore a black cap and gown for the occasion and hand-delivered yard signs to each student.
“Please accept this as a token from the Craven County Board of Education, administration, and teachers until we can finally get you across the stage,” he told them.
This production is just the beginning, according to Wallace. It is a token of appreciation for a senior class that faced several obstacles in the southeastern North Carolina community.
“This gesture is much-deserved considering what our seniors have been through over the past four years. Hurricanes, floods, ice storms, sharing their school to make room for the displaced JWS babies, no senior cookout, no senior prank day, no junior/senior weekend, no spring athletics, band and chorus concerts, no spring theatre productions, no A-team Banquet, no academic award celebration, and a delayed prom and graduation (yes we are still having these two) just to name a few,” he told participants in an email the night before the parade.
“This is the least we can do to show our seniors we care and that they are at the forefront of our thoughts.”
The event drew praise from various directions.
“[It] was absolutely amazing and wanted to say thank you to west craven for letting all the seniors know how much they care my son was really grateful,” one happy parent wrote on Facebook.
“Mr. Wallace became my middle school principal in 8th grade and he completely flipped HJ MacDonald around,” commented a former student. “He made my last year in middle school my best and I’m so happy for all of the West Craven high kids that have him this year. He really loves his job and his students and it shows. Go Mr. Wallace!!!!”
“This made me cry tears of JOY and I don’t know any of these students or faculty! Congrats to the Seniors!!!” wrote an emotional viewer.
Wallace’s dedication to his students is well documented. In 2018, he was named North Carolina’s Principal of the Year. He has a reputation as a school transformation expert because he led three Craven County schools in six years. He’s instituted several initiatives at his schools, including scheduling breakfasts after first period so more students have a chance to eat. Since it started, the average number of breakfasts served went from 40 per day to more than 500 daily meals. Wallace also created a program that allows students to do internships in their chosen fields during their senior year.
“Our kids leave here with jobs already, or if they don’t leave here with a job, they leave with an industry certification that almost guarantees they won’t make minimum wage going in,” Wallace told EdNC last year.
Wallace wants his pupils to have options, regardless of their pasts, because he knows what it is like to be shut out.
“I’ve been through this,” Wallace explained. “I’ve had doors close. Even though my transcripts and everything made it, they found something in my past to tell me no. And they didn’t let me in. Thank God East Carolina rolled the dice on me because I could play football.”