Summary List Placement
Ray Gowlett, a health and physical education teacher at Central Algoma Secondary School (CASS), built a portable stage from scratch to give 72 students the opportunity to walk across the stage in front of their families over the weekend.
“We started Saturday morning at 8 a.m and we finished Saturday night at 8 p.m.,” Gowlett told Insider. “And then we started again Sunday morning. Our first delivery was at 9:00 a.m and the last one was finished at 7:30 p.m. We traveled a total of 400 kilometers.”
A video posted on Tik Tok shows a student in a graduation gown walk up on the stage decorated with flowers, in front of the school’s logo as they smiled for a photo with their diploma.
The grand gesture comes as students remained home for most of their senior year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The high schoolers have been learning virtually and missed major activities that every senior looks forward to like prom and sporting events.
Originally, Gowlett said, the teachers at CASS planned to personally deliver diplomas to the homes of students they were assigned to. However, Gowlett’s daughter, Sadie, who is a part of the graduating class, asked him if he could hand the diploma to her and her friend at a public outdoor stage in their community.
“I asked, is it important to walk across the stage? And she said, yes we really want to walk across the stage and get a picture with our diploma,” Gowlett said. “I said no problem, I can do that. Do you think many more people would want to do that? She said everybody would want to do that.”
Gowlett told Insider that he could not bring all students to the public stage due to COVID restrictions, so he figured out a way to bring it to them.
“I just started thinking, well, how can I get a stage to every student’s house?” he said. “And then the idea just occurred to me to build a mobile stage and bring a teacher to each person’s house.”
With the help of local businesses in the community, Gowlett was able to obtain materials and a trailer to execute the stage. He said the process happened extremely fast as it only t took him about six hours to build it. He pitched the idea to the grad committee and everyone was instantly on board. Crowds were limited to 10 people at the private ceremonies to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines and each student wore a single-use gown.
“This was a full school staff effort. I was lucky enough to have the idea to build the stage, but it absolutely would not have worked without the 20 people behind the scenes doing all the paperwork and coordinating the setup and the takedown,” Gowlett said who has been teaching for 21 years and attended CASS years ago.
“The school has such a long, rich history of going above and beyond for students that it just totally wasn’t out of character for all of the staff to do what they did,” he said.