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POUGHKEEPSIE – Kelleyann Royce-Giron was named principal of Poughkeepsie High School in February. The 1990 Poughkeepsie graduate knows how special the graduation season is for the students, and has developed a plan to honor the seniors with a lengthy celebration that started Monday morning with a caravan of cars visiting the homes of each of the 214 seniors.
The group of more than 30 cars gathered at the high school at around 8:30 a.m., most decorated with streamers, balloons, and congratulatory messages, and learned of the route they would be taking. “This class is special,” said Royce-Giron as she outlined her plans to celebrate the class of 2020.
“This class is special. I really started to build relationships with them from day one. Even the night I was appointed I got to meet some of the seniors and 30 years ago I graduated from here and I walked that stage myself as a member of the class of 1990. Never did I think my first graduating class would be in the midst of a global pandemic,” she said. “But, just add it to the resume.”
The caravan, including School Superintendent Dr. Eric Rosser, School Board President Dr. Felicia Watson, Vice-president Debra Long, Senator Sue Serino, and Mayor Rob Rolison followed Royce-Giron to the first stop to visit senior Emily DeJesus.
With car horns blaring, the group pulled up and the principal presented a lawn sign to the senior as well as an information packet with details of the extended celebration. “Arriving at the house, Senator Sue Serino said, “This is so great for the kids. I am thrilled to be a part of their celebration.”
Emily was joined on the front yard by her family to learn that the Awards and Scholarships presentation will be a virtual event with the principal personally delivering the honors to the seniors on Thursday.
Between June 23 and June 25, seniors that have been cleared to graduate will be given an appointment to participate in the “Diploma Walk.” Graduating seniors will be invited to walk across the stage, get their photo taken by a professional videographer, and receive their diploma. Four family members will be allowed to accompany the student. Face masks are required for all graduates and family members attending.
“They will have their moment on stage,” said the principal, noting that the videographer will be putting all of the walks together, along with the traditional speeches from officials in a way that it will resemble a traditional graduation.
DeJesus and her family learned that the principal has also arranged for all the graduates and immediate family to go to the Overlook Drive-In to “watch the graduation film unfold,” Royce-Giron said.
After Emily posed for a few pictures, the “Pioneer Senior Caravan” continued on to the rest of the seniors. Rolison, holding a “thumbs-up” from his sunroof, praised the efforts being put forth. “This is just one more example of how this city comes together and overcomes obstacles.” The mayor added that “Dr. Rosser and Principal Royce-Giron have faced every issue created by the pandemic and have helped keep the Pioneer Pride alive.”
Dr. Rosser, who planned to be with the caravan at every stop said “Principal Royce-Giron is quickly proving that she is the leader PHS needed. She, along with extraordinary staff have constructed a plan to celebrate the accomplishment of high school graduation for our class of 2020. As we drove from one house to the next our seniors and their families were ecstatic that their principal and teachers were in there to celebrate them.”
Dr. Watson, one of the most recognizable voices of support of the students, was spending the day on the trip as well, adding “Only a true Pioneer could have thought of and executed such a fete. Principal Royce, a 1990 graduate of PHS, is a force to reckon with. The Graduation Committee and the many amazing teachers who displayed, in a grand manner, that even the coronavirus could not stop the determination of a Pioneer. The Board of Education celebrates all graduating seniors and their families.”
Poughkeepsie Police Officer Tom Palinkas and Detective Karen Zirbel supported the caravan as it traversed the city. Zirbel serves as the School Resource Officer for both the middle and high schools and has been recognized for the relationships she has developed with the students. “The community has faced several challenges that started with the pandemic and progressed to nationwide protests, including several violent actions. The death of George Floyd has created an uneasy tension and today, Poughkeepsie showed that our community can rise above any obstacle. The city really came together to celebrate our kids who have worked so hard to get here. Everyone that saw the Pioneer Senior Caravan was smiling, waving, and shouting words of encouragement. It has been a really uplifting experience.”