Drive-Through Event Honors OCHS Seniors

first_imgAfter Prom committee member Amy Holmes hands a gift bag to senior Julian Lechner during the celebration. By MADDY VITALEOcean City High School seniors and their families lined up Tuesday afternoon in their cars on the Tabernacle grounds to be cheered on, celebrated and to receive special gifts, courtesy of the After Prom committee and volunteers.“Today, the kids would have been preparing for graduation, so we wanted to do something special for them today,” said Jen Bowman, one of the After Prom committee members, as she waved and handed gift bags to seniors. “We just felt the kids were entitled to the gifts we bought them, and we wanted them to have a special day.”The 325 seniors will get to walk in a graduation ceremony outside of the high school on Carey Field on July 9. Instead of a virtual celebration, which was held for the Ocean City Primary and Intermediate schools, district officials decided to wait for the high school’s commencement until July, when Gov. Phil Murphy is allowing live graduations, while following CDC guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.As a prelude to graduation, a drive-through celebration was held at the Ocean City Tabernacle from noon to 3 p.m.Miss Ocean City Mary Grace Jamison drove up to her designated spot with fellow senior and friend, Todd Reimet, to collect their gifts. “Thank you so much!” Mary Grace shouted out.Mary Grace Jamison and Todd Reimet are pleased with their gift bags.The drive-through event provided a way for students to see their teachers and administrators and to be recognized for achieving the milestone, Bowman said. Volunteers called out to students, “Miss you!” “”Hope to see you soon” and “I’m proud of you!” Year after year, the After Prom committee, made up of Bowman, Amy Holmes, Lisa Yiannos-Wachter, Gabrielle Mulloy and Melissa Waid, hosts the event with the help of their families and the community.With the cancellation of the prom and after-prom this year due to the coronavirus, they had to get inventive about how to give the students a day they would remember. A Red Carpet event, while social distancing, was hosted by the school just last month in place of what would have been prom day.Holmes said in the unusual year, the group of volunteers thought about what they could do for the students.“We wanted to give them a reason to be happy – especially at a time when they are missing all of the fun things that we would have done at the end of the year. At least they could take something positive from today,” Holmes said as she handed out gift bags to seniors as they drove up. “And no one will leave here empty-handed.”A stream of cars holding graduating seniors drives around the Ocean City Tabernacle grounds.Yiannos-Wachter, one of the driving forces behind this year’s celebration, said it simply: “We are just happy to see them again. We want to make every minute matter for them.” Students have been doing remote learning since March 17, by order of the governor amid the outbreak. Each year, businesses typically donate food, gifts, and services for the After Prom. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shutting down many businesses, the After Prom committee decided to give back and make purchases at the very same stores and shops.Goodies ranged from After Prom T-shirts to baked goods and pizza to gifts such as luggage, dorm sets and even passes to Disney World.“Every year they give and give. We wanted to do something for them, so we purchased the gifts,” Bowman added. Gift bags are set up inside the Tabernacle for the 325 soon-to-be graduates.Organizers said the event would not have been possible without the support of the community, the police department and Tabernacle CEO and Pastor Jay Reimer.Michael Pomatto, advanced placement environmental science teacher, waved at the graduating seniors as they drove passed.“It’s cool to keep the kids in contact with us,” Pomatto said. “It still gives them that connection to the school.”Other educators who volunteered to help out included Spanish teacher Lauren Miley, special education teacher and freshman football coach Mike Williscroft, High School Principal Matt Jamison’s secretary Kathy Sykes, parent Drew Fasy, head football coach Kevin Smith, basketball coach John Bruno and many others. Some of the volunteers included parents who cheered on the seniors and their families as they drove around the Tabernacle grounds to pick up their After Prom gifts.After Prom Committee member Jen Bowman, left, joins with volunteers Carling Mott, middle, and Ali Hendricks to hand out gifts to the graduating seniors.Even alumni came back to offer assistance.Carling Mott, 26, graduated in 2012. She lives in New York and came home because of the pandemic.“I grew up here and have been home since March,” Mott said. “They were looking for volunteers and I was happy to help.”Ali Hendricks, 19, a 2019 OCHS graduate also enjoyed lending a hand.“Jen (Bowman) reached out to me,” Hendricks said while handing graduating seniors packets of cookies. “I loved coming to After Prom when I was in high school. “I wanted to come back and show support to congratulate the seniors and wish them luck.”Volunteer Drew Fasy helps out.After Prom committee from left, Caliope Yiannos, Lisa Yiannos-Wachter, Amy Holmes, Jen Bowman, Melissa Waid, Abby Waid and Gabrielle Mulloy. (Photo courtesy Amy Holmes)last_img read more