Principal decorates school driveway with huge portraits of graduating senior class: 'The world needs a hug right now'

The principal of Poplar Springs High School in Graceville, Florida lined the school driveway with portraits of the graduating senior class. (Photo: Mattox Studios)

To acknowledge high school seniors whose year was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, a principal decorated the driveway of her 100 year-old school with oversized portraits of the graduating class. 

Like most schools in the country, Poplar Springs High School in Graceville, Florida closed in March and launched virtual learning as the coronavirus spread throughout the state. However, the abrupt end was heartbreaking for students and their families anticipating prom and the athletic banquet. “We have people living nearby whose children and grandchildren attended the school,” principal Farcia West tells Yahoo Life. “It was important for me to do something for those unfinished chapters.”

She grappled with ideas for weeks, convinced that brilliance would materialize at some point. But weeks passed with no inspiration. “I prayed about it but nothing came to me,” says West. Then, one morning in April, West woke up with a plan “clear as day.”

A Florida principal honored her graduating seniors by posting their portraits along the campus driveway. (Photo: Mattox Studios)

West decided to blow up school portraits of the 30 graduating seniors and line them along the campus driveway, a visual stamp of the senior class legacy. With help from Josh Mattox of Mattox Studios, who is also a school parent, student portraits were blown up into posters and mounted on fence posts.

Secretly working over two days, the principal, her husband and their son secured each portrait to a post using Zip Ties, making precise measurements between each one. “I stepped back and said, ‘We’re in the middle of something special,’” says West.

When the family finished — and after a hint dropped on Facebook — people started driving to the school.

“Sometimes we had 8 cars at once,” says West. “People came from all over to see it, even those without children.” Some hugged family members with whom they arrived, others cried, and West says people from New Zealand, Australia and Nova Scotia have asked her for end-of-year celebration tips. “An act of kindness has turned into this worldwide loop,” she tells Yahoo Life.

Better than any attention the project has generated, “is to show children that anyone can do something where you are right now,” says West. “Yes, this is a time for sadness and reflection, but the world needs a hug right now.”

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For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

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