THS Football Field Lights Up in Honor of Class of 2020


On Monday, April 20, Ohio’s government made the decision to keep school classrooms closed for the remainder of the school year. This decision was largely expected, but that didn’t make it any less disappointing for students across the state who were looking forward to all the celebrations that typically come with the end of a school year. 

The news was an especially difficult blow to the graduating class of 2020, for whom April and May would have been booked full of celebrations and milestones, and above all, closure. Now, seniors are grappling with the fact that their last days of high school have already passed, and the chance at a traditional prom and graduation ceremony is all but lost.

In the wake of this news, however, schools and communities across Ohio were quick to come up with special ways to honor the class of 2020. Within hours, a plan had circulated widely on Facebook and other social media platforms to light up the THS football field and scoreboard at 8:20 PM for twenty minutes. Word managed to spread to the greater Talawanda community in just a few hours, and by Monday evening, many seniors began making their way toward their school.

By the time I arrived at 8:15 that evening, a good portion of the school parking lot was buzzing with cars and a bittersweet energy. Several members of school administration and law enforcement were present, but for the most part allowed students to connect from a safe distance. Students, sometimes at varying levels of social distance, were perched on the roofs of their cars, milling around in spaced-out groups, or blasting music. There were surprisingly few tears shed, but rather a sense of lively solidarity was shared. I heard a student wondering aloud the number of classmates she would be seeing for the last time that night. 

The energy filling the parking lot was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. The atmosphere seemed decidedly more celebratory than mournful, and there was a sense of unity among the senior class that felt stronger than any other moment in our shared history. When the lights were finally shut off at 8:40, word spread among the attendees to get back inside their cars and honk their horns. The now-dark parking lot filled with the oddly cheerful sound of dozens of car horns for a minute or so, until the adult supervisors began instructing everyone to go home. 

This salute to the class of 2020 ended up being done across the country this past week, as millions of other students have found themselves in the same situation. Even despite these losses, tributes like these serve to remind our seniors and students everywhere that they have communities behind them, comforting them in this difficult time and supporting them in whatever they’re moving on to next.