The high school Class of 2020 is missing out on the major milestones that come with their final semester. Schools quickly shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak and went to virtual learning. Consequently, this year’s seniors haven’t had the chance to experience those last shows, concerts or athletic seasons they’ve been waiting for over the past four years. And, the lifelong memories made at events like the senior prom and graduations disappeared as most states’ stay-at-home orders were extended and closed schools for the rest of the academic year.
Students are feeling the pain of these lost moments, but so are school administrators and teachers. Virdie Montgomery, the principal of Wylie High School in Wylie, Texas, couldn’t stand the thought of all those important events falling away for his school’s 612 seniors.
“I looked at that calendar and I saw all these things that the seniors were going to miss,” Montgomery told Yahoo Life. “We’re a very tradition-laden school and these kids have gone their whole lives looking at what all the seniors have done before them, and got to do, and that they looked forward to doing.”
But, what could one person do? Montgomery decided to visit every senior in the graduating class personally.
Montgomery mapped the home of every senior and set out with his wife, who stayed behind the wheel so he could dash out at each senior’s home. The couple thought it would take just a few days to meet each student, but it turned into a 12-day epic road trip totaling 79 hours and covering about 800 miles!
At each stop, Montgomery (who wore a skull-and-crossbones face mask in honor of the school’s pirate mascot) jumped out the car with a candy bar, a note and a little joke. He told Yahoo that he’d say to each student, “‘Things aren’t really happy at Wylie High School right now because you guys aren’t there, but one of these days we’re gonna snicker about it.’ And I’d hand them one of those little fun Snickers and a card and we’d go from there.” He snapped a selfie with each student to mark the occasion.
“I delivered the same lame joke more than 600 times,” Montgomery told the New York Times. “I wanted to see them and make sure they were doing all right.”
He compiled all the photos of the students and other family members into a video and shared it on YouTube for the senior class to enjoy.
Sometimes his students were at home, but sometimes, Montgomery had to make surprise appearances at a student’s workplace. If a student wasn’t home, he asked a family member to stand in for the selfie, so each student would be represented.
Montgomery said while the initial intent for his visits was to lift the seniors’ spirits, his 12-day road trip really helped him cope with the coronavirus quarantine’s impact on these student’s final year, too.
“I told them upfront, I said, ‘This is for me, I can’t see you guys every day. I’m missing your softball, your golf, your track, your choir concerts, I need to see y’all,” he told Yahoo. “This is for me, y’all could give a flying flip about me, but I need to see y’all.’ And that’s what I did.”