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Tracy Heath planned to celebrate two graduations in her household this month. Her oldest son, Bradley, recently graduated from Kennesaw State University. Her youngest, Mitchell, is set to graduate from South Forsyth High School.
Neither graduation went according to plan. As the coronavirus pandemic ramped up, schools and universities around Georgia and the country postponed graduations or canceled them altogether.
Heath knew her kids weren’t the only ones in the Cheswyck subdivision in South Forsyth that had that special life milestone upended, and she knew she wasn’t the only parent still wanting to celebrate it somehow.
With a little Facebook organizing, Heath and the Cheswyck neighborhood found a way to celebrate their graduates anyway with a parade on Saturday, May 9.
“It just kind of celebrated the seniors and let them know that we are very proud of all they’ve done,” Heath said.
Heath’s own sons have come to terms with the unconventional end to their senior years, she said, and their spirits are high. Mitchell is working at a golf course this summer until he begins his first semester at Limestone College. Bradley starts his first full-time job out of college Monday.
“I’ve got them both at home,” Heath said, “which is an added bonus for me.”
Still, Heath thought that her boys and the rest of Cheswyck’s graduates deserved a proper celebration. She first had the idea for a neighborhood parade three weeks ago after seeing similar efforts for birthdays and other celebrations on the internet, so Heath asked neighbors on the subdivision’s Facebook page if they’d be interested in doing the same thing for the neighborhood’s 11 graduates.
Families quickly got on board. Heath planned for parents and families to drive by the graduates, but so many wanted to participate she flipped the idea just this past Wednesday. In addition, one of the graduate’s siblings, who is a police officer in Gwinnett County, saw the plan and offered to provide a police escort.
Saturday arrived, and Cheswyck’s spirit was on full display, Heath said. Yards were decorated with balloons and signs. Driveways were covered in chalk art. Families cheered. One played drums. Another banged on pots and pans.
As Heath watched Bradley, Mitchell and the rest of the graduates drive through the neighborhood, she was “overwhelmed,” she said, and proud of the community outpouring.
She was even happier for the graduates.
“They’ve worked hard for the four years in high school, for the four years in college,” Heath said, “and it’s just nice that people acknowledge that.”