Car parade held to congratulate class of 2020

Four seniors organized a senior car parade on May 31 to celebrate the graduation of the class of 2020.


Alyssa Skala

Seniors Kaitlyn Hansen, Khlood Saeed and Elena Koogler pose for a photo during the senior car parade on May 31.

After three days of individual graduations held at West, seniors participated in a car parade on May 31. There were two routes for the seniors to drive through, one in Iowa City and the other in Coralville. The Iowa City route started its parade at 2 p.m. from the Hall of Fame parking lot to Borlaug Elementary School while the Coralville route started at 3:30 p.m. from the Coralville Youth Sports Complex to the Iowa River Power Company. The routes were divided into two to reduce driving time and traffic while including the two cities. Four seniors: Emily Hill, Jessica Moonjely, Leah Rietz and Julian Wemmie organized the parade to accommodate the loss of senior traditions.

“We were all really upset at the loss of the regular senior traditions such as prom, senior assassin, graduation, and others, so we decided we wanted to do as much as we could to help fill in this hole,” Wemmie said.

Instead of simply saying goodbye to high school, the seniors wanted to have a proper finish.

“So much of the graduation commencement is the closure of finishing high school and being recognized by the community. I think a part of me would always feel regret if I didn’t have a ‘final moment’ of high school,” Rietz said. “A car parade was the perfect conclusion to our senior week. It involved community recognition, social distancing, and closure for seniors.”

While in a time of isolation, the four seniors planned to dedicate the week of graduation to the seniors.

“The parade was part of the ‘senior week’ my friends and I organized. We planned out some pranks as well as the parade for the week of graduation for all the seniors to help give us some sort of closure while also maintaining social distancing guidelines,” Hill said.

Seniors Leah Rietz, Julian Wemmie, Jessica Moonjely and Emily Hill held a Zoom meeting to plan the car parade. (Photo courtesy of Leah Rietz)

The car parade was not a school sponsored event and was all planned by the four seniors. According to Wemmie, the planning and brainstorming took several weeks.

“We made a list of all the senior traditions and then tried to figure out ways to supplement them. The idea for the senior parade came really early [around late March] before really many other schools did them, but when we saw that so many others had organized parades, we knew we wanted to do the same,” Wemmie said.

With some inspiration from the Clear Creek Amana and Wickham Elementary car parade, the seniors took action to turn the idea into reality.

“The first step we took was building up the senior class Facebook group to be able to communicate with everyone in one place. For planning the parade we started with big picture things like making the routes and calling the police and then worked our way towards the small things like making flyers and publicizing the event,” Moonjely said.

Along with distributing around 1400-1500 fliers into mailboxes on the parade’s routes, the group sent emails to the seniors and made a Facebook event to advertise the parade. Each route took around 45 minutes to complete and the organizers put out signs to guide cars at difficult intersections. 

Many families and neighbors waved to the graduating seniors from their driveways. According to Rietz, organizing the car parade with her fellow seniors was rewarding.

“It began as an idea, and seeing it through [until] the end was so impressive. It would not have been as big of a success without the show of seniors in the parade and the support of the community along the route. Seeing the immense support of our neighbors, friends, and teachers reminded me of how important community is in celebration during a pandemic,” Rietz said. “The parade was the final closure I needed for my thirteen year career in the ICCSD.”

Although the seniors were not able to celebrate their graduation in a traditional way, it was still a historical moment to remember.

“This parade was special for me because I was able to help organize it with some of the other incredible seniors at West. It’s been hard for me to find motivation during the past few months, especially since I’m a person who is ‘go go go’ all the time, and going from having a full schedule to doing nothing at all was super difficult,” Hill said. “When the idea of having a senior week was proposed, I was so happy to feel like I had some purpose again, and no matter how this week turned out for me and for others, I know it will be one that I’ll never forget.”