#1StudentNWI: Signing Up to Love the Class of 2020

#1StudentNWI: Signing Up to Love the Class of 2020
By: Zoe Brickner Last Updated: April 29, 2020

Seniors have it tough.

With graduation plans up in the air and uncertainty about the near future, it has been incredibly difficult, nearly impossible, for them to stay motivated and disciplined about their school work while doing it from their bed or kitchen counter. As a way to bring smiles to their faces and show them their love, Washington Township’s (WT) principal, Sue Lipinski, organized a parade for them. On April 23, the administration led a parade of cars throughout the district, delivering yard signs to the Class of 2020 seniors. Cars honked and horns blared, and some teachers even decked out their vehicles with balloons and window paint.

Upon hearing the idea, Taylor Schumann could not contain her excitement. After weeks of missing her friends and teachers, she loved seeing everyone come together for the gesture. She was most excited to see Ashley and Daniel Leighty, her yearbook advisor and math teacher in the years prior. Even better, WT’s Spanish teacher Jennifer Butler (whom everyone loves) brought her son with her. Many of the Spanish students are close with teachers' children because they pick them up from the elementary school every day; this was a fun surprise for the students to see.

Washington Township High School student stands in yellow rain boots beside senior class sign

“I would just like to tell all of the teachers how much I appreciate them going the extra mile for our class and how I wouldn’t have been able to get through high school without their love and support,” Schumann said.

To make the experience even more memorable, Schumann’s mom added her own decorations. With Taylor being the oldest of three girls, her mom just wanted to make her feel loved.

“I wanted to do something special for Taylor since I feel for her missing the end of her senior year,” Schumann’s mother said.

While the parade was an unforgettable experience, many of WT’s students live out of the district. To ensure that they were just as equally remembered, some teachers specially delivered the signs.

One of these seniors, Maddy Burton, was overjoyed to see Athletic Director and family friend Tim Brunton drive up to her house.

“I was very thankful that he drove out of the way to bring it to me,” Burton said. “This whole thing has made these dark times a little brighter.”

In addition to the signs the school got for the entire senior class, Justin Thompson ordered signs for the band seniors. Robyn Walsworth, mother to senior Emily and junior Caden, sold yard signs to fundraise for the food pantry. Taken by the idea, Thompson and his wife Melissa purchased signs for the band kids. Melissa is also the color guard coach for all the fall parades, so she knew some of the girls very well. The Thompsons even added their own flare with “I’m with the band!” stickers.

“We miss our students, staff, and school so much! If we can do anything to make this year a little better for this year's senior class we will,” Thompson said.

Washington Township High School student stands behind senior class signs

The most notable band tradition is during the spring concert when Thompson would recognize all the seniors. Not able to appreciate them in that same setting, Thompson features a senior every day on the WT Band Instagram account. He posts their picture along with a short video where he recounts their achievements and a favorite memory. Thompson would also like to thank Funkhouser Fotography for allowing him to use the senior banner photos for his Instagram features.

One of the first seniors he recognized was flute player Allison Haines. She called his video “bittersweet” in the sense that it cannot be exactly the same as previous years. 

“Mr. Thompson is always so kind and thoughtful and reminds me how much he and my other teachers care about us, even though we are not in the classroom,” she said. “I mean, during the parade I could not stop smiling from ear to ear!”

The staff’s main goal at WT right now is to show the students that they care. Lipinski admitted that it is also difficult for the teachers right now. 

“Our current condition is challenging all of us to reflect on why we do what we do,” she said. “That Thursday, the seniors really reaffirmed our call to teach. [Senior celebrations] may look different this year, but it is still fun. Together, we can create different and meaningful memories!”