Drive-thru preschool graduation gives 4-year-olds their day in the sun

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Pre-K graduate Olive Juneau models her cap with dad Alex Juneau looking on. (Dinah Rogers, Uptown Messenger)


The carpool line at the Child Development Program on Claiborne Avenue looked a bit different Saturday (May 16). Children’s heads popped up through sunroofs as teachers greeted the line of cars with cheers, waves, balloons and gift bags. Preschoolers were being treated to a drive-thru graduation.

Of the 54 total students, ages 6 weeks through 4 years old, at the Uptown center, seven were graduating 4-year-olds.

After being told by several parents that the sudden shelter-in-place orders brought on confusion to many of the children, particularly the older students, CDP staff members determined that they needed to do something to lift the children’s spirits.

“We are more than day-care or a preschool,” said Director Nicole Ben. “We are a family, and families celebrate major milestones — and this is ours.”

With the sounds of “Lean on Me” and “Hello, Goodbye” flowing from large speakers, the children leaned out car windows to grab treat bags, a graduation cap, a memory book of their artwork and classwork and, of course, a diploma.

Pastries and chocolate milk donated by PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans were passed out. Cars pulled into parking places and balloons were distributed.

After brief remarks from Nicole Ben, one of two balloons held by the child was released in honor of the occasion. And as things wrapped up, kids hopped out of cars to run have a photo taken in from the of a banner offering congratulations.

As the cars pulled away, each child carried with them, tucked inside their gift bag, a note from their pre-K teacher Emily Schumacher.

“Way back at the beginning of the school year, we learned our Honeybee Class song and sang about being kind, helping friends, being good listeners, and staying safe. I hope you can remember these big words even when we feel so far apart. I know you are still your kind selves; you can still help friends and family feel loved with phone calls and video chats, you can listen and learn from each other and your parents, you can stay safe and careful until we’re all able to hug each other again.

In this envelope are some wildflower seeds that can grow into something big and strong and lovely, just like you. When they bloom, they will attract bees. I hope that as those bees spread pollen and bring new flowers, you remember the things we sang about and learned together in the Honeybee Class and spread them to the world around you. I know you will do amazing things.”

Pre-K teacher Emily Schumacher gives a thumbs up as graduate Felton Lewis III poses for a portrait. (Dinah Rogers, Uptown Messenger)

Anne DiPaola, admissions director, waves at pre-K graduates passing gift tables during the drive-thru graduation. (Dinah Rogers, Uptown Messenger)

Pre-K teacher Emily Schumacher waves at Cani Ambrose after her daughter Rouxa Norris posed for a portrait at the center’s congratulatory banner. (Dinah Rogers, Uptown Messenger)

Pre-K teacher Carrie Kinler hands Sabrina Schettler balloons as mom Sarah Schettler takes cellphone photos. (Dinah Rogers, Uptown Messenger)

Pre-K graduate Olive Juneau, with parents Alex Juneau and Jayne Lighter, ride by gift tables during the drive-thru graduation at the Child Development Program’s Claiborne Avenue location. (Dinah Rogers, Uptown Messenger)

Winter Dunbar takes gifts passed through the car window as her dad Brandon Lennert watches. (Dinah Rogers, Uptown Messenger)

Pre-K graduate Riyan Zelaya, with mom Victoria Holman, pass gift tables during the drive-thru graduation. (Dinah Rogers, Uptown Messenger)

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