A caravan of cars and MBTA buses cruised through Boston neighborhoods Saturday afternoon for an early celebration of the city’s public school students’ graduation next week.
“This clearly is an unconventional graduation season,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said before about 40 vehicles, including four buses carrying high school seniors, rolled out through parts of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Jamaica Plain. “But the spirit remains the same.”
With schools across the country canceling graduation ceremonies, many have made celebrations virtual or found new ways to honor graduates. In Boston, a citywide virtual graduation ceremony is scheduled for next Saturday.
While individual schools have held similar caravans in recent weeks, Saturday’s drive was designed to celebrate the entire city’s high school graduates, said organizer Sharon Hinton in a phone interview Saturday.
“You work all this time and then you don’t get to have the closure and celebration,” said Hinton, a Hyde Park resident, who was inspired to organize the event by her daughter, who graduated from college this year.
The caravan “doesn’t replace” a real commencement, she said, “but hopefully gives some good memories they can look back on.”
About 20 students were accompanied by some 80 parents, teachers, and others driving in cars decorated in chalk and with balloons. The procession was led by Boston police officers on motorcycles.
On Friday, one of Boston’s graduating seniors called the caravan a positive way to celebrate the class.
“It makes me feel like my class is being heard,” said Kaydra Hopkins, a dance student at Boston Arts Academy.
Boston schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, who attended the event, said in a statement Friday that the graduating class “will always be remembered for their perseverance, resilience, and determination.”
Cassellius said that the community should “embrace any opportunity to safely come together as a community to celebrate this year’s truly unique group of graduates.”
Boston Police Commissioner William G. Gross and Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III were also among officials who attended the caravan’s kickoff at Mattapan Square.
The mayor, who said this was the first public event he had attended since the start of social distancing, addressed both the pandemic and protests against racism, saying that students are “are making the transition into adulthood at a pivotal moment in American history.”
He compared the class to those students who graduated during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that went on to fight for “freedom and equality in the world."
“I feel in my heart that this generation, the class of 2020, you’re going to be the next 'greatest generation’ because you’re going to finish that work.”
John Tlumacki of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Lucas Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.