Editors note: Seniors of the class of 2020 may submit graduation photos for publication. Send photos to events@the-leader.com


CORNING - So many high school students were looking forward to walking across the stage on graduation day.


But those dreams to celebrate with a traditional ceremony were crushed when the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools across the country to postpone or outright cancel their in-person graduations, often replacing them with virtual ceremonies.


Suddenly in mid-March there was a lot of disappointment, without knowing, the final year of high school for about 360 Corning-Painted Post High School seniors ended, canceling proms, school sports and now one of the most memorable days for students, families and friends, graduation day.


“I mean it is definitely not really what any of us was expecting,” said Corning-Painted Post High School senior Hannah Mealy. “I know a lot of us are disappointed, myself included.”


Mikayla Nelson, a C-PP High School senior, agreed.


“It’s hard as a senior. We can't go out and hang out with friends and have an actual graduation,” Nelson said. “It’s hard, but I’m getting through it.”


Although many families have held a celebration to recognize their accomplishments many regret not being able to walk across the stage in front of their families and friends.


“I’ve actually thought a lot about this,” said Marlene Reynolds, the mother of Hannah Mealy. “I think it's very challenging as a parent to watch your kid go through such a time of loss, and having so many things taken away from them. “It's certainly a challenge, but I think the biggest thing that I have realized about Hannah in particular and probably many of the seniors is they are very resilient.”


But because of the COVID-19 outbreak, most rites of passage are being canceled around the nation, graduations included.


“(The students) have been able to work through things in the past that have helped shape them and I’m sure this will shape them as well,” Reynolds said. “Watching your child go through this loss and not being able to do anything about it is certainly challenging as a parent. But they are very resilient and I think that they will blossom and be great leaders.”


C-PP Superintendent Mike Ginalski said district officials have worked for the last few months on several contingency plans, to this point with no success, to hold a graduation ceremony at War Memorial Stadium.


“When we went into this, we were not sure what the state officials were going to allow for our graduation,” Ginalski said. “So our plan was two-fold. We wanted to have a virtual graduation ceremony, allowing us to do an impersonal graduation ceremony. But we have every intention of having a traditional graduation ceremony, if the governor (Gov. Andrew Cuomo) allows us to do it.”


Mealy said she appreciates the virtual graduation ceremony.


“I had my cap and gown and I’m allowed to bring six people with me and I will walk across the stage to receive my diploma and they are going to film all of the students and then edit all of the videos together and release an entire video,” Mealy said. “I look forward to that.”


Ginalski said he is still hopeful to have a traditional graduation ceremony.


“I do,” Ginalski said. “I think they are going to let us do something face to face. I just don't know exactly how many people they are going to allow in an outdoor space at this time.”


Ginalski said dealing with the questions surrounding if a traditional graduation ceremony will happen has not been easy.


“It's been very challenging and I feel for the kids. I feel for the parents, I feel for the people that have lost their jobs,” Ginalski said. “I think if any good comes out of it, I think there is a new appreciation for everything that school is from actual face to face learning with teachers to extra curricular activities to sports. I think people have a new appreciation. The last four months have not been easy. I can tell you that much.”