On Sunday there will be another tribute to Roanoke Rapids High School seniors — the Senior Ride.
It is an event that takes the place of the annual Senior Walk where the graduates march through the halls of the city’s elementary schools where their educational journeys began. It is also the substitute for the traditional Project Graduation where many spent the evening at T.J. Davis Recreation Center as a way to celebrate their commencement with friends.
“You just want the best for the kids and to have those memories,” said Lori Medlin, president and CEO of the Halifax County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Medlin is also the mother of one of the school’s graduating seniors. “Graduation at Roanoke Rapids is such a special thing. We’re trying to make special memories for them. We want to encourage them with signs and cheering.”
The Class of 2020 Senior Ride will line up at Kirkwood Adams Community Center at 3 p.m. and will proceed along the route on the map.
After following the loop, the procession, for those who want to participate, will end at Victory Baptist Church where Pastor Jeremy Kobernat will deliver the baccalaureate address at 5 p.m. in a drive-up format in designated parking areas. The address will be broadcast on the church’s radio station — WVFV, Voice for Victory, at 95.9.
Tammy Colston has been active in Project Graduation and her daughter Elizabeth is one of the members of the class of 2020. “With all of the issues with COVID-19 we put our heads together to honor seniors safely. We looked at all kinds of options and thought, ‘How about an escort through town?’ It’s a long enough route so they follow social distancing.”
Colston said Halifax County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Scott Hall and retired Roanoke Rapids Police Department Captain Andy Bryant “took it and ran with it.”
The school system has found different ways to honor the seniors. “They asked Project Graduation to put it together. There are really a lot of people behind this.”
The idea, Colston said, is to give the seniors some normalcy in a school year cut short by the pandemic. “Normally we do a Senior Walk. We felt like the Senior Ride would be reminiscent of that. They would like that, teachers at Belmont and Manning cheering for them. They would love to see them finish this.”
Colston said her daughter has been positive throughout the pandemic. “I always taught my girls to roll with the punches and how they’ve got to make lemonade out of lemons. We’re trying to be a positive support for our seniors. Elizabeth handled it very well and finished her online courses. The faculty at the high school has worked endless hours. They really tried to do everything they could to keep our seniors in mind.”
And the Project Graduation fundraiser will not have been held in vain as the seniors will get their money envelopes with the diplomas they are given at commencement, she said.
Medlin said several businesses have been instrumental in the Senior Ride — Ricky Barnes a Farm Bureau agent; WestRock; RoanokeConnect; DrugCo; State Farm Agent Chris Canady; the HCVB; Project Graduation; Roanoke Rapids Graded School District faculty and staff; Victory Baptist; the Roanoke Rapids police and fire departments; Halifax County Sheriff’s Office; North Carolina State Highway Patrol; and Halifax County EMS.