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Colchester County farmer offering up space for drive-thru graduation ceremony for local high school students

Upper Onslow farmer Jim Lorraine is offering up space on his farm for local high school graduation ceremonies in light of the ongoing social distancing restrictions that has shut down most public events.
Upper Onslow farmer Jim Lorraine is offering up space on his farm for local high school graduation ceremonies in light of the ongoing social distancing restrictions that has shut down most public events. - File Photo


UPPER ONSLOW, N.S. — Graduation ceremonies for high school students are too important to fall victim to the ongoing pandemic’s social distancing restrictions, a Colchester County farmer believes.

That is why Jim Lorraine of Upper Onslow, N.S., is offering space on his farm to be used as a site for a drive-thru graduation ceremony.

“It started with my daughter and her comments that we won’t have any graduation or prom this year,” Lorraine said, describing his daughter Eryn’s reaction when the province’s COVID-19 state of emergency went into effect in March.

“So then it went from trying to do something for my daughter and her graduating class to trying to do something for everybody that is hurting so bad because there’s been a lot of grief for a variety of reasons in the province and, indeed, in Colchester County,” he said. 

“Our whole point was, rather than receive your diploma in the mail, this would be something special, something these kids will remember for a lifetime. As their children graduate, they’ll be saying: ‘ I had mine at a farm, my graduation ceremony, and it was during a pandemic when movements were restricted in society’.”

Lorraine and others involved are in the process of providing a formal proposal to Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Strang and other government officials.

Lorraine has a six-hectare field that is used for parking vehicles during his farm's annual haunted maze that he feels would be a perfect venue for the event. Vehicles could be parked at least three metres apart and he said information from the ceremony could be transmitted through car radios.

While he awaits approvals, Lorraine said he has been overwhelmed by offers to help from others.

“And, I think that’s one of the driving forces because, we all graduated, we all got to walk across the stage, we were all very proud,” Lorraine said. “And these people don’t get to do this. 

"The amount of people that stepped up, from signage people that will put up signs ... to volunteers saying ‘I’ll clean the washrooms… .’”

The people who provide security and parking assistance during his haunted attractions have also said they will provide free labour.

“It is very, very touching for the amount of people that have said count me in,” Lorraine said.

'RITE OF PASSAGE'

Jeannine Garett, whose daughter Amielia lost her father, Sean McLeod and her stepmom, Alanna Jenkins, during the recent shooting rampage has also been involved in the planning.

Alanna Jenkins and Sean McLeod were among the victims in a mass shooting in Nova Scotia on April 19, 2020. - Contributed
Alanna Jenkins and Sean McLeod were among the victims in a mass shooting in Nova Scotia on April 19, 2020. - Contributed

“It’s just been phenomenal, the response that we’ve gotten for it,” Garett said. “I think it’s great. And, you know what, in this area, I don’t think it takes something like a shooting or a pandemic or anything like that. If a group is in need of something like this, that’s this important to people, as graduation is to teenagers and it’s like a rite of passage, I think the entire community would have stepped up regardless."

While Garett said she believes all graduating students would appreciate the chance to participate in some sort of a grad ceremony, she believes Amielia would appreciate it as much as anyone.

“Despite everything she was going through she was determined to finish her work and turn in her assignments and all of that. She’s worked hard for it and I think she would be really appreciative that so many people have come together for her and her classmates, that what they’ve achieved in these times is worth celebrating,” Garett said. “I think for Amielia, it means just a little bit more.

Lorraine said with so many people offering to help out, the event could be handled efficiently and safely without any undue burden on anyone.

“We can pull this thing together very quickly. It’s just a matter of us getting the green light,” he said, “This is something the kids will see, everybody in the community does really care. And I can’t wait to see it actually happen.”

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