By Allan Jamail
Jacinto City, TX. — Saturday, May 23, 2020 – For Jacinto City’s officials having a graduation parade just a couple of months ago wasn’t planned nor could it ever have been imagined, but since the COVID-19 virus struck nothing’s been a resemblance of normalcy.
Scientists have estimated the deadly virus entered the United States as early as November or December of 2019 but it didn’t hit home to schools across the nation until mid-March while many of the students were home for Spring Break. Schools and students lives were changed once it became known the highly contagious decease was being passed on human to human. Studies revealed an infected person even without virus symptoms were spreading the germs as easy as talking to one another by “voice-droplets” transmitted in the air. Schools, churches, sporting events brought a halt to large gatherings as it still is today.
The long awaited graduation ceremonies planned for years by high school and college students were no longer allowed. Graduates wouldn’t be able to walk across a stage to receive their diploma or say goodbye to their classmates after years of friendship.
The Galena Park School District’s graduates, parents and family members were saddened as all others schools were by the sudden turn of events. Soon people began devising ways to safely celebrate milestones from birthdays to funerals by keeping a safe distance of 6 feet apart and wearing a mask. Parades called “wave by’s and drive by’s” became prevalent across the nation giving communities ways to help students celebrate.
Jacinto City’s Mayor Ana Diaz said she was contacted by graduate Ana Banda’s mother, Luisa Banda Perez about the possibility of having a parade so the students and families could celebrate. The City Council approved the parade, City Manager Lon Squyres began planning the event which had never been done before, and Chief of Police Joe Ayala’s police department had to provide traffic control and was assisted by a large turnout of Precinct 2 deputies along with Constable Chris Diaz (Mayor Diaz’s husband). Graduates of Furr High School joined in with the Galena Park 2020 Class. Mayor Diaz said, “The parade was the idea from Luisa and her hard work and organizing the students to come participate that made the event the success it was.”
Mayor Diaz said, “I was saddened for the students and families to not have the normal graduation ceremony and I felt the city should do everything it could to give them the best parade possible. It made me feel good to be able to stand on the parade sideline with members of the city council and wave and shout congratulations as each graduate came past the city’s congratulatory banner. Our city has a big heart; it’s always given a helping hand to a good cause.”
Councilwoman Carmela Garcia purchased book markers with fitting Bible verses on them for officials to give each passing student. Verses Jeremiah 29: 11- “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Another, Matthew 5:16 – Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Parade organizer Perez said, “Despite everything with COVID-19, this 2020 year the mess got real for these graduating students, it’s been very sad for graduating seniors. I’m so thankful the city allowed me to organize this parade to celebrate the graduating seniors. It’s been a blessing and a privilege to serve for my community. I’d like to thank Mayor Ana Diaz, Police Chief Ayala and his department and Constable Diaz and his deputies for their help with this historic parade. I hope the city will make this an annual event for graduating seniors.”
State Representative Ana Hernandez was on hand and said she was sadden the deserving graduates didn’t have their traditional graduation ceremony, but she felt the fantastic parade provided something positive which would provide a lifelong memory of their achievement. She was thankful for getting to participate and to be able to congratulate them.
FROM THE EYES OF A GRADUATE:
Idahlia Garza, a Jacinto City resident and Galena Park graduate in an interview after the parade said, “I plan to attend San Jacinto Community College and then transfer to the University of Houston to get my bachelors degree in Secondary Education.”
“COVID-19 came at us with a big hit, first it started off my missing weeks of school which turned to months which then led to canceling the rest of the school year. It has been a challenge for the class of 2020. Senior year is supposed to be the best year of high school. I mean I dreamt about it as a little girl and you watch it in the movies. Getting to walk across the stage with your fellow peers that you grew up with as kids and then getting to see everyone’s accomplishments throughout the year. To see all the work, sweat and dedication that each one of us put in for 12 years and then when the time came for of the main event and it couldn’t take place, oh how sad. The one thing I was excited about was to walk into the NRG with my sister Acelia Garza. Since 1st grade we always walked into school together, I was always more nervous than her but I never showed it. And being able to take that first steps into the NRG was going to be our last walk together and COVID-19 took it away.”
TOSSING TOILET TISSUE:
During the parade I chose to throw toilet tissue to the bystanders to add a little bit of humor into it. Because of the pandemic once COVID-19 struck it was like a panic mood turned on with the stay at home orders. There were some cities and states that were shut down. A great sense of fear flew across everyone while they rushed to the store. Leaving not only toilet tissue out of stock but as well as napkins, cleaning supplies, water, food, etc… but once the parade started and I started to see the crowd I started throwing rolls and the looks on their faces were priceless.
“The parade was a success! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was such an amazing feeling to see, proud parents and friends cheering me along the way. During the parade I did end up shedding a few tears. I was so overwhelmed with the amount of support from the community. Even though it was not how I expected to graduate, it has truly been a blessing. I’m very proud of the accomplishments it took me to get here. Also with the great support of my family pushing me to not give up when I had a bad day. I knew it would be okay because I was going to see a victory for my battle belongs to the Lord,” Idahlia concluded.