As graduation approaches June 6, seniors are preparing to walk across a stage that no other Blake alumni have walked before as the ceremony will be held at Mount St. Mary’s University (MSMU) instead of the DAR Constitution Hall for the first time.
Issues with timing, space, and accessibility last year were all major components that led to the switch in venue location. At DAR, hundreds of graduating seniors were crammed into narrow hallways, the traffic in D.C. surrounding the venue was hazardous, and doors were being opened for the next school to enter as a student was still speaking on stage.
“It was never ideal in terms of location . . . last year was the worst,” says staff development teacher Mackenzie Phelps.
Now that the graduation ceremony has been relocated, students and families, as well as the staff, can expect a more positive experience for the last day that the senior class will be together.
The drive to MSMU is a scenic one with minimal traffic compared to the traffic-filled route into downtown D.C.. Once there, seniors will wait in an air conditioned field house as family and staff settle into their seats, and there will be no rush to end the ceremony and get out on time as Blake is the only high school graduating from MSMU that day.
“I hope it’s a really good memory for our seniors,” says Mrs. Phelps. “Everybody’s earned this, everybody deserves a beautiful day and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish here.”
A benefit of the new location is the extra space that allows students to be given eight tickets in comparison to the four that were given out last year for DAR. This year, however, Blake will not have any additional tickets to provide upon request. The senior class will have to work with each other to obtain any extra tickets needed.
In addition to the new ceremony venue, this year the senior class chose English teacher Omari Daniel to be the graduation speaker through a survey. “I will not be up there forever, [my] job as the graduation speaker is to get in there, make ‘em think, make ‘em cry, make ‘em happy [and] get out,” says Dr. Daniel.
As an effort to write a speech that truly relates to Blake seniors, Dr. Daniel has been reaching out to seniors and asking them what their diploma means to them. He acknowledges that the class of 2019 is made up of a variety of students who have each faced their own struggles and he wants to be able to connect to everyone.
“For some people, it’s a milestone, it’s hope, it’s freedom, it’s relief,” says Dr. Daniel. “It’s so many different things for so many different people . . . it’s not just a piece of paper.”