2020 BBA grads take to the streets

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MANCHESTER — Like graduating high school seniors across Vermont, the Burr and Burton Academy Class of 2020 had a lot taken away from it thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spring sports, music and theater performances and prom were all erased from the calendar. So was the senior tradition of ringing the one-ton bell that hangs atop the Seminary Building on the last day of class.

Tuesday, the Class of 2020 took some of that back, with plenty of school spirit and a big assist from the community.

The school's 172 graduating seniors draped their cars in green and gold and took to the streets of Manchester on a warm, sunny afternoon, ringing cowbells they had been provided for the occasion. They rode in vehicles carrying messages, vehicles festooned with balloons, signs and every manner of green and gold decorations, a car topped with an oversized green graduation hat (complete with tassle), a pickup truck with a kiddie pool in back holding real sudsy water (and BBA senior Graham Bowen in said suds), and several parade-quality classic cars.

Led by seemingly every piece of equipment the Manchester Fire Department owns, as well as Dorset and Winhall firefighters and Manchester Police, the parade noisily made its way from Riley Rink, through the historic downtown district, around the roundabouts, and down Main Street to BBA's campus at the crest of Seminary Avenue.

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All along the route, from the downtown shopping district to Manchester Village, parents, neighbors and classmates clapped, cheered and rang cowbells of their own. When the parade rounded the right-hand turn for campus, classmates and family members were awaiting to cheer them on like it was an old-school homecoming parade. Up the hill, the school's bell tolled steadily — as it would have on Tuesday, had a pandemic not interfered. Headmaster Mark Tashjian said the parade far exceeded expectations — and might be the start of a new tradition at BBA.

"What we're trying to do is turn a spring where our seniors have lost so much ... and give them whatever we can give them," Tashjian said afterwards. "I'm so happy at the spirit I felt during the day and so happy for the Class of 2020."

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At Riley Rink, seniors and their family and friends put the final touches on their decorations, picked up green and gold cowbells, and awaited the fire department escort that would bring them through Manchester.

"It's pretty sad that we didn't get to spend our last semester on campus," Brennan Harris said as she and her friend, Grace Sherwood, readied their car for the ride. "But I think that this parade and everyone's attitude kind of just shows what the BBA community is like, how close we are as a school."

"It's a little sad but we're trying to make the best of it,' said graduating senior Hannah Dworkin, who rode in a classic 1930 Buick — a family heirloom — driven by her father, Adam Dworkin.

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Nearby, graduating senior Etham Simmonds sat in the flatbed of the pickup truck he and his mother, Anna Simmonds, decorated for the day. He had mixed feelings about senior year being over.

"Senioritis definitely hit a little bit harder with the online classes, so it's kind of nice to see it end," he said. "But it's also kind of sad to see my high school career be over. "

Tashjian said he was proud of the way the school and its community handled the challenge of being forced off campus and into an online learning model for much of the spring semester.

"I'm always proud of this school, but the way our community is handling this ... I don't know if I've ever been more proud of our kids, faculty, teachers and the surrounding community for their support," Tashjian said. "It is a test of our bonds, and the whole community is coming together in a really important way."

Reach Greg Sukiennik at gsukiennik@manchesterjournal.com.


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