Rural Missouri - July 2020 - 45
the parking lot and use an FM transmitter so people could
listen in their car."
Kyle provided the transmitter from the Christmas
display he sets up at his home to broadcast the unusual
ceremony. His wife helped extend its range with a low-tech
rabbit ear antenna she found at Walmart.
Graduation started with a vehicle parade through town.
Everyone turned out to cheer for the graduates. So popular
was the parade that it's likely going to be a part of future
Due to the need for social distancing,
graduates each got four parking passes that
allowed relatives to take part in the ceremony.
"The parents ﬁgured out really fast that they
could roll their windows down and scream at
their kids like they normally would," Kyle says.
"But they could honk their horns and be a whole
lot louder. That was so cool to see those kids going
up on stage and all of those parents screaming
and honking in support of the kids."
Against a backdrop of giant grain bins symbolizing
the area's farming roots, the ceremony was held using a
ﬂatbed truck for a stage. A school bus was pressed into
service to support a 24-foot screen when strong winds
threatened to blow it down. A senior video and a video
replacing the traditional presentation of roses was shown.
Those videos and the entire ceremony were streamed on
Facebook and YouTube thanks to the high-speed connection through GoSEMO. Graduation ended with the seniors
throwing their hats into a sky ablaze with ﬁreworks.
"We really just missed the traditional graduation that
everyone else got," says Emily. "We didn't get to do a lot
of the things. We didn't get to give out the roses or hug
our classmates. We couldn't interact. I know I cried a few
times. It was just really emotional."
Pulling off an amazing graduation in the midst of a
pandemic was no sweat for a school focused on training its
students for a future that will look much different than it
looked for past generations. The tiny school located in the
middle of a cornﬁeld prides itself on educating students in
"We just try to imagine what the kids are going to see
when they graduate," says Richland Superintendent Frank
Killian. "We try to make sure they are ready for their world.
It would be easy to teach them for our world. But if we
don't get them prepared for their world, we are putting
The school uses project-based education, customizing the experience based on the goals of individual
students. It also relies on technology rather than
textbooks. For example, students - who beneﬁt
greatly from GoSEMO's high-speed internet at
home - are issued laptops to do homework.
For this reason, the school was better prepared
for the move to online education brought on by
the pandemic, Frank says.
Richland's students will have more memories of the
odd school year thanks to Kyle's yearbook staff. Students
tracked the effects of the pandemic from around the world
and closer to home for a yearbook timeline. Students also
photographed the graduation thanks to spotlights on loan
from other schools as the daylight faded. One student ﬂew
a drone to capture an overhead view that included the
graduates, the parked cars and the nearby grain bins.
After a memorable graduation, the class of 2020 is
ready to move on. "I'm ready for all of this to pass over so I
can have my college experience, then start my own job and
open my own business," Emily says. "Even when something like this happens you can't let it fully change your
life. We still have to be us and focus on the good things.
Just make as many memories as you can because things
can change fast."
photos courtesy Richland High School
Above: This photo taken from a drone shows parents watching from their cars while graduates sit 6 feet apart due to social distancing requirements. The entire ceremony was broadcast over FM radio and streamed live on Facebook and YouTube by a school that uses technology to prepare
its graduates for their future. Right: Allison Jones brushes back a tear during the emotional ceremony.
JULY 2020 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP
Rural Missouri - July 2020
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