By Timothy Hessen, Special to the Independent
Laguna Beach celebrated the Class of 2022, who endured a high school career marred by a global pandemic, in a triumphant parade down Ocean Avenue Wednesday.
Families of the graduates lined the streets from City Hall to Main Beach waving signs and cardboard cut-outs of seniors’ faces as they followed the parade escorted by Laguna Beach police. Passerbys and restaurant diners joined in cheering on the marching graduates.
“We live in such a small town where everyone knows each other and so this means so much to me, not just for me to celebrate my son, but to see everyone else celebrate and to see all of them smile,” said David Burchi, father of graduate Max Burchi. “It is really a beautiful thing.”
The graduation parade that has now become a yearly tradition for Laguna Beach High School originally started because of the pandemic. In the initial COVID-19 lockdown, proms and graduation ceremonies were banned so students took things into their own hands.
“The kids just took it upon themselves and they marched out on Ocean Avenue and the police came out,” said Heidi Draper, a member of the Graduation Committee. “They ended up supporting them and helped lead them and ever since then it’s been a tradition.”
Police officers stopped traffic at Ocean Avenue and Coast Highway so the seniors could safely cross. The joyous parade reached its end at Main Beach, where the graduating seniors joined together for a celebratory cap toss at the lifeguard tower.
The Class of 2022’s high school journey took an unprecedented turn when the Laguna Beach Unified School District announced the school would be closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 13, 2020. Since then, the 2022 graduating seniors have overcome many unique challenges as a result of the pandemic, including a months-long switch to online learning.
“I haven’t had in-person classes with about three-fourths of this class in the last two years, only Zoom classes, and so it’s great to see everyone in person and have this moment together,” senior Rowen Johnson said.
The official graduation ceremony for the Class of 2022 will take place Thursday at Guyer Field at 7 p.m. The graduate arrival time is 5.45 p.m., and guests are expected to arrive at 6 p.m. Families of the graduating class will receive an email beforehand with information about their assigned seating.