TARPON SPRINGS — After millions of seniors across the country saw their dreams of walking with their graduating classmates to receive their diplomas dashed by the coronavirus pandemic, school officials began coming up with alternative ways to celebrate the Class of 2020.

As a result, a nationwide Be the Light campaign was planned for May 14, with schools encouraged to illuminate their ballfields and put 20-20 on their scoreboards for 20 minutes beginning at 8:20 p.m. in a show of support for their seniors.

The turnout at Tarpon Springs High School for the event was much larger than expected, according to principal Leza Fatolitis, as dozens of cars filled with students and parents, friends and family paraded by the school, honking their horns and waving to their leader until nearly 9 p.m.

“Wow, I guess this shows they read my emails!” an emotional Fatolitis said as she eyed the long line of cars that stretched down Gulf Road. “It really shows that their support for their school and each other continues even during this terrible crisis.”

Earlier in the week, Fatolitis appeared, virtually, before the Tarpon Springs City Commission to inform the board and residents that school officials planned a parade through town on Friday, May 22, beginning at 11:30 a.m. to replace the school’s previously scheduled graduation ceremony.

“That is a way to honor the May 22 (graduation) date, celebrate our students yet again, and then hopefully by May 22 we’ll be able to share with them a deferred graduation ceremony date,” Fatolitis said April 12, noting Pinellas County Schools hope to schedule a more traditional graduation ceremony later this summer as mass gathering restrictions are lifted.

Fatolitis also thanked the commission for installing signs and banners around town honoring the Class of 2020.

“It definitely set a good tone for the last two weeks of school,” she said.

In conclusion, she said that out of 308 eligible seniors, 292, or 95%, are currently on track to graduate, a figure that could rise to 98% in the coming weeks and would represent the highest percentage Tarpon High has attained in over a decade.

“So, through all of this uncertainty with the pandemic we’re still able to meet and exceed some of our goals and still continue to find unique ways to celebrate the hard work and efforts of our students,” Fatolitis said.

(1&6 appear to be the best)

Photos by JEFF ROSENFIELD

Tarpon Springs High School participated in the nationwide Be the Light campaign to honor the Class of 2020 on May 14. Dozens of cars full of students and families paraded by the Gulf Road school for more than 20 minutes, honking their horns and waving to Principal Lez Fatolitis, who was overwhelmed by the show of support.

Tarpon Springs High School participated in the nationwide Be the Light campaign to honor the Class of 2020 on May 14, as high schools across the country were encouraged to illuminate their ballfields and put 20-20 on their scoreboards for 20 minutes beginning at 8:20 p.m. in a show of support for their seniors.

Signs and banners honoring Tarpon Springs High School’s Class of 2020 were hung all around town last week in a show of support for the seniors whose graduation ceremonies were disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic.