Texas Motor Speedway Makes In-Person Graduation Possible For The Class of 2020 | KERA News

Texas Motor Speedway Makes In-Person Graduation Possible For The Class of 2020

May 25, 2020

More than 30 North Texas high schools are holding graduations this month. Not in an auditorium, but at a racetrack.

Typically, when people cheer at Texas Motor Speedway, it's for race cars. The cheer on Friday, though, was for Guyer High School in Denton, class of 2020.

While graduating at a racetrack is unconventional, Harlie Cooper, a senior at Denton Guyer, said the opportunity to cross the finish line literally is memorable.

Students from Braswell High School embrace after their graduation ceremony.
Credit Lauren Rangel for KERA

"Senior year has been something I've looked forward to for a long time. And you know, it's not exactly what I expected or what I guess anyone expected, but I'm still excited to see everyone and finally graduate," Cooper said.

After losing the end of her senior year, Cooper said she learned a lesson while graduating during a pandemic.

"Never take anything for granted, because I know I took for granted sitting in classes every day with all my classmates and teacher," she said.

Safety during commencement is a priority – students must stand six feet apart. Upon arrival, they’re scanned for fevers and given hand sanitizer and a face mask with their school logo.

David Hart, TMS vice president of public relations, said he wants to give students a chance to end on a strong note.

With everything that's going on, to be able to give these kids an opportunity to have something that's normal in a very abnormal year is pretty rewarding," Hart said.

Family and friends line up in the infield of Texas Motor Speedway to watch students from Braswell High School graduate on screen.
Credit Lauren Rangel for KERA

When students take their places, cars full of family and friends line up in rows in the infield. The ceremony plays on "Big Hoss," a 12 story, 218-foot-wide video board.

Eiya Saldia, a senior at Denton’s Braswell High school, said she appreciates the effort.

"I'm just glad they have this or just have a ceremony to recognize all our hard work. I'd rather have this than an online Zoom ceremony, and I'm really happy," Saldia said.

There were a few bends in the road to graduation. But one by one, these students finished the race.

A family cheers from their car as their student walks across the stage to receive their diploma from Braswell High School.
Credit Lauren Rangel for KERA