District high schools honor 2020 graduates with personalized virtual ceremonies

Edmonds Heights K-12 graduate Skylar Vayda being filmed speaking during the graduation (Photo by Larry Vogel)

The Edmonds School District has started rolling out videos of the district’s high school commencement ceremonies, which were pre-recorded after in-person commencements were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ceremonies were produced by two Snohomish County companies as an alternative to large in-person gatherings prohibited under the state’s COVID-19 rules. The first commencement – showcasing the graduates of Edmonds Heights K-12 school – was released June 6. The remainder will be unveiled between now and June 15 on the schools’ originally scheduled commencement ceremony dates.

For the past few weeks, Everett-based Life N Light Studios and Jostens, the graduation memorabilia company, have been working to produce the ceremonies. Scott Krenz, owner of the Jostens in Marysville, said the goal was to create a memorable, one-of-a-kind ceremony for the 2020 graduates.

The news that Edmonds School District graduation ceremonies would be pre-recorded and aired during the schools’ regularly scheduled ceremony time and date was devastating to some graduating seniors, as they had been looking forward to ending their high school careers walking across a stage to receive their diplomas.

Meadowdale High valedictorian Luke Hunnewell holds up his diploma. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

Initially, the plan was to create slideshows using photos, videos and speeches submitted by each school. After further consideration, Jostens and Life N Light decided to produce “a full-blown virtual ceremony” for each high school.

“Even though it’s a disappointing time, today more than ever with the youth culture, capturing the event is as important as the event itself,” Krenz said. “It’s all about the picture. They’re going to have more of a close-up picture than they would have at a traditional graduation (and) they’re going to have a video of themselves close up across the stage.”

Each video feature elements personalized to each school. The Edmonds Heights video, for example, includes cameo shots of students preparing for the ceremony, as well videos of students receiving diplomas from their family members, since it is tradition for Edmonds Heights parents to participate in their students’ graduations. Also included are commencement addresses from student speakers and the school principal, and a message from Superintendent Kris McDuffy, and even a rendition of Pomp and Circumstance, performed virtually by the Edmonds Heights student orchestra.

The production for each school took place between June 1-3, with the filming lasting between two and half to four hours depending on the size of the school. Teams of four — including two photographers and two videographers — traveled to each high school, working a tight schedule to meet each school’s graduation date.

Students are also able to access their graduation video and photos for free online when the ceremonies are available for streaming. Video length depends on the size of the graduating class and could last between 45 minutes to an hour.

Families can watch each commencement ceremony as it is released on the district’s YouTube page or Life N Light’s virtual graduation YouTube page. Some graduation videos may also be available on each school’s website after airing. There will also be a free photo gallery for viewing.

Dates and times for the remaining graduations premiers are as follows:

  • Scriber Lake High School – Thursday, June 11 at 5 p.m.
  • Edmonds-Woodway High School – Friday, June 12 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Mountlake Terrace High School – Saturday, June 13 at 10 a.m.
  • Meadowdale High School – Saturday, June 13 at 3 p.m.
  • Lynnwood High School – Saturday, June 13 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Edmonds eLearning – Monday, June 15 at 6 p.m.

More photos from the high schools’ virtual graduation production can be seen in the gallery below.

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