By Marisa Guerra Echeverria and Lyanne Wang, Print News Editor and Print Feature Editor
// Festive homemade signs, floating balloons, and cheering family members greeted Acalanes High School seniors as they drove down Mount Diablo Boulevard in adorned, blue-and-white painted vehicles. As the month of May draws to a close and graduation inches closer, there comes a wave of lively celebrations commemorating the end of the class of 2021’s high school experience.
The Acalanes community hosted the school’s second annual car rally through downtown Lafayette on May 21 to send off seniors in style before their graduation the following week.
This senior tradition began last year as one of the few culminating events parents could put together in light of COVID-19 shelter in place orders. As the pandemic continued to present challenges throughout the 2020-2021 school year, several community members wished to recognize this year’s graduating class by hosting another senior car rally.
“I think it’s the sweetest event for our seniors. It’s just really meaningful and organic, and it came out of the Community Can’t be Canceled campaign last year. It was kind of one of those things [where] the seniors had lost so much and they were getting so little, and this seemed like a really special way to acknowledge what they had been through,” Acalanes parent and car rally planner Dawn Brightbill said. “Then, this year we realized that this year’s seniors similarly had missed out on so much that it seemed like the tradition should continue, and I think it will go forward now when we’re out of COVID as well.”
A collection of Acalanes parents and local organizations worked together to host this event for the graduating class.
“It is a team effort between the Acalanes Leadership teacher [Katherine Walton], Associate Principal [Andrea] Powers, and the Acalanes class liaisons. Together, they put the plan together, they staffed it, and then we worked with the Lafayette Chamber, Lafayette Police Department to kind of pull it all together… It’s clear that this is such a group effort, and I’d really like to make sure that we recognize that,” Brightbill said.
The event provided a chance for students to meet with friends and decorate their cars before showcasing their newly bedecked vehicles in a route throughout downtown Lafayette.
“Beforehand, I got together with a few of my friends to decorate our cars together with car paint, streamers, balloons… then we all drove over to the Oakwood [Athletic Club] parking lot and were welcomed by the principals and parents that had organized the rally,” senior Megan Go said.
The celebration also allowed Acalanes students to develop unique designs for their car rally vehicles to celebrate their history at Acalanes and their future in college.
“I enjoyed the car decorating [at the event]. What was particularly cool was how people incorporated Acalanes and the university they’re attending [next year] into the decoration as a recognition of where they’re going and where they’ve been,” senior Nick Emtage said.
The car rally also gave the class of 2021 the opportunity to reunite with the senior community in person after almost an entire school year made up of learning online and attending school in split cohorts.
“It was super fun seeing students from different cohorts that I haven’t seen in a while at Oakwood beforehand and then seeing [students’] families downtown during the car rally,” senior Isabel Powell said.
To celebrate the seniors, rows of families and community members lined up the streets of downtown Lafayette.
“I think that Lafayette as a whole is a very spirit-filled environment. Everyone [at the event] was super excited and happy for you even if they didn’t know you, and there were a ton of people who took time out of their day to put together the rally for the seniors. So there was definitely a very energized, excited atmosphere created by the community, ” Emtage said.
Overall, the event instilled a sense of community and togetherness despite the challenges of the school year, making for a sweet, year-end celebration.
“This year, due to COVID-19, there were few activities we could hold to celebrate the seniors’ last year of high school but this car rally was probably one of the coolest things, in my opinion, that we have been fortunate enough to do… There is something special about the whole town gathering together to send off the seniors and wish them luck on their after graduation plans, and I enjoyed it very much,” Powell said.
Check out the photos below!