Follow high school grads as they say goodbye to a senior year stolen by coronavirus

Two-thirds of St. Francis high graduates don’t go on to college. When coronavirus canceled graduation, the school dreamed up a unique way to honor them.

Streamers and balloons fly off cars congregated in the parking lot of St. Francis High School. The last day of school came abruptly in March, but in mid-June, the tiny town of St. Francis, Wisconsin, turned up to celebrate with a parade.

The Berry twins—Zakiria (the shorter one) and Anaste (the fashionable one)—waited in their mom’s red Chrysler for the parade to start. They wore long white robes, like all the girls in St. Francis High School’s class of 2020, with white mortar boards pulled over curly hair extensions they’d gotten the day before. Their mom sat behind the wheel and their younger siblings filled the car. A blown-up portrait of the twins in matching schoolgirl uniforms—taken months before coronavirus snatched away their senior year—was taped to the back windshield.

On this June afternoon, a long procession of cars plastered with pictures, balloons, and streamers idled in the parking lot of St. Francis High School, which perches on the outskirts of Milwaukee in the two-square-mile town of St. Francis, Wisconsin.

Benny Draeger waited for the signal to go with a heap of red-and-white pom-poms on his Honda’s roof and “BLM” painted on the back windows. He wore the same cherry red robes as the other senior guys, but unzipped enough to show a bright floral print shirt—a hint of his signature style. Most of Benny’s classmates, with whom he’d just spent 13 years in school, knew he wanted to be a fashion designer.

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