Delaware graduations will be special, even with loss of tradition

U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester offered the commencement address to graduates of Delaware Technical Community College in virtual ceremonies.

DOVER — Some notes and quotes between headlines and deadlines…


Tradition calls on us to celebrate our graduates with “Pomp and Circumstance” – both with the music and the grandeur of commencement.

Dover High plans to include a recording of the band’s performance of the song during its virtual graduation ceremony.

Seniors are placing messages on padlocks on a fence at the school to memorialize the lockdown. Roadside signs will feature their names and faces.

“So with things like that, we’re trying to make it special,” said Dan Shelton, superintendent of the Capital School District.

The loss of tradition has been heavy for students, parents and educators.

“Our seniors and their families are dealing with all the turmoil of loss,” said Dr. Shelton. “All these kids aren’t getting to do the things that every generation ahead of them got to do.”

So, the challenge on schools is to make sure it is as special as they can make it.

Dover High will air the graduation ceremony on June 3. A production company has been tasked with making sure it is a high-quality showing with prerecorded speeches and music.

“It’s the parents that are grieving more than the kids,” said Dr. Shelton. “This was their baby. They were going to be the ones taking the pictures, they’ve paid for the caps and the gowns, they were the ones sending out invitations and planning the party.”

Dr. Shelton said he was in a webinar audience with other school superintendents recently, listening to a researcher’s presentation on the importance of rituals.

“He was explaining the reason we do things like graduation and birthdays and all these other things,” said Dr. Shelton, “isn’t about the actual time and event itself but, by nature, we kind of need to crystallize all the experiences into an emotional connection.

“That allows the person to move to the next step.”

The speaker, he said, was “trying to help us get all of that without the traditions.”

Indeed, this will be a memorable time.

Then again, the Class of 2020 has grown up in a unique era.

“It’s a group that dealt with resiliency their whole life, right? They’re the babies from 9/11,” he said.


About a month ago, Tonda Parks, director of event marketing and community outreach for the Delaware State News, reached out to Kent County school superintendents to ask how the newspaper could help.

Brainstorming led to discussion of keepsake booklets and complementary web pages that would recognize the students’ accomplishments and offer ways for families and friends to share congratulatory messages and memories.

The first booklet to be included in the Delaware State News will be one for Dover High. It will be inserted in the June 7 edition.

Plans are in the works to have additional copies available.

The tentative dates for release of the other schools’ booklets: Lake Forest High School, June 21; Milford High School, June 28; Polytech High School, July 5; Caesar Rodney, August 2; Smyrna, August 2.

Starting June 1, will have special pages where photos and messages can be posted at no charge.

Keep an eye on ads in the newspaper for more updates and how to be involved.


Delaware Technical Community College held virtual graduations this past week for its four campuses, starting with the Terry Campus in Dover. Each opened with footage of administrators taking the stage and keeping physical distance.

U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Delaware, gave the commencement address, acknowledging students and family who were at home watching on cell phones and tablets.

“When I was invited to give this commencement speech a number of months ago, I pictured it a little different,” she said. “I imagined the usual — excited classmates, proud friends and family, maybe some colorful decorated graduation caps. I figured I would follow the normal commencement script, start with gratitude, tell you to stand up if you can and look around and show some love to the people who got you here and help make this day possible, your family, the educators, your bosses, and maybe some babysitters.”

Her virtual speech centered on lessons of the current health and economic climate of the state.
“Wisdom number one: Plans don’t always work out,” she said.

The DelTech commencement ceremonies can be viewed at,


The Delaware State News received some good news recently about funds for local journalism. The newspaper applied for and won a grant from the Facebook Journalism Project.

The grant will help to underwrite the creation of a special team to cover Greater Milford. We will use money from the award to hire a full-time reporter, freelance photographer and a part-time social media manager.

As we have discussed with readers in recent months, this has been a challenging time for newspapers.

“Advertising sales are closely linked to the health of the local economy,” wrote Delaware State News Publisher Darel La Prade in a recent piece in our monthly newsletter. “As you might guess, newspapers like the Delaware State News, have experienced very painful drops in ad revenue, as coronavirus has forced many businesses to close or sharply reduce spending.”

If you appreciate our public service mission, we encourage you to become a digital subscriber or to subscribe to the newspaper itself. Another helpful option is to make a donation and become exclusive members of our Press Club. Visit for more information.

“At a time when we all need high-quality journalism, we cannot afford to view the economy through rose-colored glasses,” said Mr. La Prade. “The truth is reader support along with grants and donations will become even more important to every local news organization.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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