Project Graduation, which is coordinated by English teacher Jamie Bristol, is a project that focuses on the aspects and events surrounding Bellows Free Academy’s senior graduation. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Graduation has to look different to support Vermont’s regulations and mandates around gatherings.
Bristol has been coordinating BFA’s Project Graduation for 17 years; last year was the first year the school had not been permitted to hold the project.
Alongside Bristol, BFA Principal Brett Blanchard, Stephanie Hodgeman, Chris Pepin, Shawn Lefebvre, Mary Brouillette, Dino Patsouris, Theresa Callan, Nate Archambault and MaryEllen Tourville are the other BFA faculty and staff members who are working to make Project Graduation a reality for the class of ‘21 seniors.
“[This] group of staff that are really committed to making sure that our seniors have celebratory events. Given the crazy year that we’ve had, they deserve it,” Bristol said.
The BFA Senior Week of events will begin on a Saturday, June 5 with Junior/Senior prom and end on the following Saturday, June 12 with the actual graduation ceremony.
The Junior/Senior Prom, named the “Prom Bonfire Dance,” will be held at the Collins Perley Sports Center from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Monday, June 7 there will be Break Out to the Bay, which is an event at the St. Albans Bay for seniors to enjoy an early dismissal (2:00 pm) and a parade at 2:45 pm.
Tuesday, June 8, there will be pizza offered in Taylor Park from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. as well as cap and gown and yearbook pickup starting at 10:30 a.m. June 9 is a senior cruise, and June 10 is a movie night. June 11 will be the mandatory graduation rehearsal, which begins at 2:30. Following the required rehearsal will be the graduation rehearsal party.
All of the events are open for both the blue and green cohorts. This will be the first event where the whole senior class will be able to spend time together as a full group since BFA went into lockdown last spring.
Because of this year’s chaotic nature, Project Graduation will be different in comparison with previous senior graduation events.
“Typically… Project Graduation in that past has been…a potluck dinner where families come in, [and] it’s always at the Complex…I hire a DJ-karaoke, and we usually have inflatable jousting or inflatable obstacle courses…[then in] the evening, usually right after dinner, there’s a hypnosis show where parents typically stay and watch…Then [after] the parents…clear out and the rest of the evening is just for students,” Bristol said.
Northwest Career and Technical Center Outreach Coordinator Dino Patsouris (‘14) is assisting Project Graduation by providing music, lights, and footage. Mary Brouillette and Shawn Lefebrve have also been helping, since they had organized what would have been the Spring Fling. Since the Spring Fling was cancelled, ideas from that event have been incorporated into the senior event week.
“We really tried to get all different people on board who would…have some sort of asset to help us fulfill this kind of dream of a week-long celebration,” Bristol said.
If everything goes according to plan via Gov. Phil Scott’s orders, every member of the senior class should be able to participate in each event. The events included in the BFA Senior Week have been picked deliberately to be outside and/or large enough to support the entire class and follow COVID-19 restrictions.
According to Bristol, if, for some reason, the governor’s orders are changed, Project Graduation and the senior events will be altered to fit the new guidelines.