Last year, Ferndale High School held a drive-thru commencement for graduating seniors, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced a shutdown of schools and traditional graduation ceremonies. While schools  will be holding ceremonies this year, Ferndale High School  did hold its drive-thru once again in the days before its ceremony.

Last year, Ferndale High School held a drive-thru commencement for graduating seniors, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced a shutdown of schools and traditional graduation ceremonies. While schools will be holding ceremonies this year, Ferndale High School did hold its drive-thru once again in the days before its ceremony.

File photo provided by Ferndale Public Schools


Local high schools plan in-person graduation ceremonies

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 27, 2021

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FERNDALE/BERKLEY — The high school seniors in the Ferndale and Berkley school districts will get to have graduation ceremonies this year.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students and their families and friends weren’t able to gather for graduation last year. With more people becoming vaccinated, both districts will be holding ceremonies in June.

Ferndale High School will hold its graduation ceremony at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 2, at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater in Detroit.

Going into this school year, Principal Radhika Issac didn’t know if Ferndale High School was going to be able to have a graduation ceremony, though organizers were excited about the possibility. Last year, in place of a ceremony, the school held a drive-thru graduation celebration at the high school.

“We knew from the get-go we were going to keep that as something we would do this year,” Issac said. “The drive-thru celebration was already being planned throughout the year. What we were waiting on was to see if we could do the in-person graduation.”

The high school was able to secure the amphitheater, which seats about 5,000 people. For the ceremony, the school’s capacity is 1,000.

Graduates will be allotted five tickets each for their families and friends, as compared to 10 tickets in the past. This means not as many people would be able to attend graduation compared to past years.

“Between the drive-thru and the in-person (graduation), we feel that every family member and friend will be able to celebrate each senior’s momentous occasion,” Issac said.

“We were just excited to have an open air (ceremony),” she continued. “We knew that we would add another layer of safety. “

Coincidentally, Berkley High School’s graduation ceremony will be held the same day as Ferndale’s, at 7:30 p.m. June 2, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

Principal Andy Meloche felt strongly, as far back as the end of the 2020 school year, that he wanted to have an in-person graduation for students this year. To him, it wasn’t an option not to have something in-person “in some way, shape or form.”

“Commencement is just a very special ceremony in the lives of students and their families and the community, and it was such a tragedy last year to not be able to hold a commencement ceremony in its traditional form,” he said.

Meloche said he was determined to get something done this year to hold a graduation ceremony for the seniors.

“It was never an option to do that virtually again,” he said. “I knew we had to make something happen in person for students, even if it meant a limited number of guests than we traditionally do.”

Normally, Berkley High holds its graduation at the Meadow Brook Amphitheater, with students receiving on average six to eight tickets for graduation. The school opted not to hold it at the space this year because students would only get two tickets each for others to attend.

Meloche said the school made a switch to the bigger DTE venue so seniors could invite more people for their big day.

“That’s a much larger venue,” he said. “It’s a bigger stage and so at that venue, we’re allowed to have four tickets per graduate.”

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