Rural Missouri - July 2020 - 44

Pomp & Strange

Circumstance

Above: Brooke King is all smiles as she accepts her diploma. Top: The cap worn by Halle Swallows symbolizes a year cut short by COVID-19.

Richland graduates prepare for their world
by Jim McCarty | jmccarty@ruralmissouri.coop

H

igh school graduates have had to suffer through
endless repeats of "Pomp and Circumstance"
for generations. A typical graduation ceremony
would feature fresh-faced seniors lined up in caps
and gowns while a packed auditorium resounds with the
cheers of friends and family and the strains of "I'll always
remember, my senior year."
For the class of 2020 things were much different. Some
schools cancelled graduation altogether. Others went
online, bestowing virtual diplomas. Car parades and photo
stops were organized in an all-out effort to honor graduates while maintaining social distancing in a world turned
upside down by COVID-19 pandemic.
For graduates at Richland R-1 High School in Essex,
their community was determined to provide its seniors
with a memorable ceremony. Graduation went on with
students carefully spaced 6 feet apart and parents sitting

44

RURAL MISSOURI | JULY 2020

in vehicles while listening to speeches on their car radios.
"It wasn't what we expected, and it wasn't what we really wanted to do," says Emily McGowen, one of the 18
Richland 2020 graduates. "But I feel like our school put
a lot of effort into it and our community denitely did to
make it good for us. It was the best thing we could have
had compared to what was going on."
Part of that community working behind the scenes was
SEMO Electric Cooperative, which serves the small school
located near Essex in southeast Missouri. Co-op employees
helped make graduation possible by installing a temporary
electric service and a Wi-Fi hotspot through its GoSEMO
Fiber internet service. GoSEMO's hotspots also let students without internet service do homework.
"Without SEMO Electric this graduation does not go
off," says Kyle Carter, business teacher for Richland High
School and one of the many people tasked with setting
up the graduation. "They were a lifeline for us putting out
that electric and Wi-Fi so we were able to have electric in



Rural Missouri - July 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2020

Contents
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - Contents
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - 4
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - 5
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Rural Missouri - July 2020 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - Cover4
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