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An experienced school counselor shares eight ideas to celebrate the end of the school year during COVID-19.

This season for graduation and transitions to new grade levels is a time for reflecting on accomplishments, challenges and the learning journey taken over this past year. In the coming weeks there were to have been many end of school year celebrations. Helping students celebrate accomplishments and supporting them in making transitions are two distinctive but equally important facets of this time of year. 

Due to COVID-19, many students have not been in school since sometime in March, making it particularly challenging to support student learning and celebrate traditional end of year milestones in our customary ways.  School communities are seeking new ways to celebrate the conclusion of this school year in a manner that is meaningful and uplifting for all.

Faced with such unprecedented change, how can we help students celebrate the end of the school year? 

Eight ideas to consider:

  • Connect through email, phone and video calls, or by mail with a message acknowledging that change is difficult and emotional. Let students share what they are going through and let them know you care about them.
  • Adapt mindful activities to be done virtually on the school counseling’s website, Google classroom or school web system. Mindful ideas include writing a journal, taking pictures or recording a video of their journey.  Then allow students the opportunity to publish and share if they so choose. Giving them a platform to exercise their voice can be very empowering.
  • Recognize students moving up from one grade to another or making transitions from high school to post-secondary options by using social media communities. Engage students in planning a special virtual graduation for the class of 2020.
  • Create a wall of celebration in the school. Students can write a thank you or goodbye note to each other and/or their teachers. Have students mail notes to a designated person to be posted on the wall and shared virtually. It will also be there for students to see when they are welcomed back to school.
  • Invite students to create a celebration video to be shared with all the students and families. For example, graduating seniors can share their favorite memory of school, their interests and plans for post-high school.
  • Survey your students and ask them for the top ten things they have learned this year. You do the same and turn that into a word cloud that can be shared at the end of the year and serve as a personal and collective keepsake.
  • Write your students a personal letter reflecting on the year and celebrating their contributions and/or post a video goodbye message for your students.
  • Consider ways to celebrate in the fall. Many high schools plan a homecoming game to celebrate alumni. Leverage the homecoming weekend to create a special celebration for the Class of 2020.

Finding authentic ways to bring closure to the school year is the best way to cap it off. Letting go of long-established traditions can be hard to do during the best of times. Helping students learn how to do this in challenging times is an opportunity for us to draw on creativity and resiliency skills as we celebrate the end of this school year.

Deborah Hardy

Dr. Deborah Hardy is a senior advisor to Intellispark. She has 25 years of experience as a school counselor and is a former director of K12 school counseling services in New York. Currently Dr. Hardy works as a consultant and provides training for school counselors in developing the support for all students by embracing the whole child approach and personalized learning. Dr. Hardy works on topics such as implementing a comprehensive school counseling program, curriculum writing and technology for school counselors, multi-tiered of support processes, and other topics. Dr. Hardy is an adjunct professor at NYU, LIU and Western Connecticut State University. Dr. Deborah Hardy is also founder of GuidED Consulting.