When the COVID-19 pandemic kept Key Club seniors from attending in-person graduation ceremonies in 2020, everyone hoped “normal” would prevail in 2021. But a year later, the pandemic is still impacting how hard-working high school grads will be marking this milestone. 

Because health regulations can vary widely in different locations, some schools might be forging ahead with in-person ceremonies with social distancing in place. Others are scheduling more than one ceremony to thin crowds. And still others have decided virtual is the way to go again. 

No matter how a graduation takes place, one component remains this same: Your Key Club seniors need to be recognized and appreciated for their accomplishments. And that’s where sponsoring Kiwanis clubs and caring advisors can make a difference. Ready to celebrate the Class of 2021? Use these suggestions as inspiration: 

  • Shop for gear. New for 2021, the Kiwanis Family Store offers graduation yard signs (sold singly or in value packs) and grad gear bundles. Even if your grads won’t be participating in an in-person ceremony, they’ll be proud to don their Key Club cords, stoles and medallions for photos and virtual celebrations. 
  • Speaking of photos … Organize a socially distant photo shoot for your Key Club grads. Choose an outdoor location with plenty of space and get creative with setting up shots. Ask your grads if they want the shoot to feature formal graduation gear, casual Key Club logo merchandise or both. Then use an online scrapbook site (Canva is free) to create a virtual memento of your club’s Class of ’21. 
  • Create a congratulatory group video for your grads. Through the Tribute website, your Key Club advisors and members of your sponsoring Kiwanis club can record and upload a personalized video message. Those videos can then be dragged and dropped into the desired order and shared with your Key Club seniors. Messages can be general good wishes or centered around a theme: inspirational quotes, valuable words of advice or fondest memories of the Key Club experience. The Tribute service is free right now when using the code “yougotthis25” at checkout. 
  • Hold a virtual party. Many Kiwanis clubs have turned to the Zoom website to hold virtual meetings; you can do the same to host a celebration for your Key Club grads. Recognize their achievements in education and service and ask them to share what they have planned for the future. 
  • Send them something special. Partner with a local restaurant to deliver a celebratory pizza dinner to each grad or organize a snail-mail or digital “card shower” to share a personal note of thanks. 
  • Plan a drive-by parade. A popular way to safely recognize graduations in 2020, drive-by parades are perfect for areas with strict limitations on personal gatherings. Coordinate a day and time for each member of your club and the Key Club advisors to drive by your grads’ homes. Honk vehicle horns, ask passengers to hold congratulatory signs and offer plenty of smiles and waves. Consider leaving souvenir grad packs of Key Club mementos at each home. 
  • Honor them with a Sandy Nininger Award. Honor that person with the Sandy Nininger Award! Honorees will receive a medal and certificate — and they will know that fellow Kiwanis family members continue to appreciate their service and dedication in these unusual and difficult times.