RANTOUL — Lance Cloninger said he didn’t know what to expect for graduation this year.
He said he can look back and tell people he was part of one of the most unique graduation ceremonies ever held at Rantoul Township High School.
Cloninger was one of the grads who walked across stage to receive his diploma Thursday, the first of three days of graduation at RTHS.
There were no speeches. No choral numbers, no cheering. Just Principal Todd Wilson reading off the graduates’ names before they walked across stage, picked up their diploma off a table, turned their tassle from right to left and then headed off stage to have their individual photos taken.
A professional photographer and a videographer captured it all onstage.
“It’s strange,” Cloninger said. “I didn’t really know what to expect to be honest.”
He said he will have a story to tell.
“I was there in 2020,” he said.
Cloninger, like most people, was shocked by the developments of the past few months and the quarantine that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting to have like a third of my senior year taken away over the coronavirus pandemic,” he said. “I’m still kind of stunned by that a little bit to be honest.”
Cloninger wasn’t able to complete the track season for the Eagles and like all other students had to finish his studies at home. He was able to run cross country in the fall.
Fellow grad Delma Cobb said she has kept busy during the quarantine.
Cobb is working two jobs in addition to having taken classes online. She works at Dunkin’ Donuts and recently got a job at Combe Laboratories, where one the products made is hand sanitizer.
“We’re bringing in a lot of people,” she said of Combe. “I just got hired because they need more people.”
Otherwise, she said, “It’s been all right. I don’t really like the fact we have to graduate separately because I wanted to graduate with everybody in my class. I always forget the mask part, too.”
A total of 167 graduates will receive their diplomas.