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YMCA celebrates little learners in decked-out preschool graduation

By Ryan Comer standard-Examiner - | May 28, 2021
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A graduation ceremony for preschool-age children is held in the parking lot of the YMCA Community Family Center in North Ogden, 575 Lockwood Drive, on May 19, 2020.

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A graduation ceremony for preschool-age children is held in the parking lot of the YMCA Community Family Center in North Ogden, 575 Lockwood Drive, on May 19, 2020.

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A graduation ceremony for preschool-age children is held in the parking lot of the YMCA Community Family Center in North Ogden, 575 Lockwood Drive, on May 19, 2020.

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A graduation ceremony for preschool-age children is held in the parking lot of the YMCA Community Family Center in North Ogden, 575 Lockwood Drive, on May 19, 2020.

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A graduation ceremony for preschool-age children is held in the parking lot of the YMCA Community Family Center in North Ogden, 575 Lockwood Drive, on May 19, 2020.

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A graduation ceremony for preschool-age children is held in the parking lot of the YMCA Community Family Center in North Ogden, 575 Lockwood Drive, on May 19, 2020.

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A graduation ceremony for preschool-age children is held in the parking lot of the YMCA Community Family Center in North Ogden, 575 Lockwood Drive, on May 19, 2020.

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A graduation ceremony for preschool-age children is held in the parking lot of the YMCA Community Family Center in North Ogden, 575 Lockwood Drive, on May 19, 2020.

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A graduation ceremony for preschool-age children is held in the parking lot of the YMCA Community Family Center in North Ogden, 575 Lockwood Drive, on May 19, 2020.

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A graduation ceremony for preschool-age children is held in the parking lot of the YMCA Community Family Center in North Ogden, 575 Lockwood Drive, on May 19, 2020.

OGDEN — It’s not ideal, but it’s better than last year, and at the end of the day, it’s still a celebration that the children can get excited about.

That’s the tone struck by Heather Shaffer, director of early childhood education at the YMCA, ahead of Thursday’s graduation ceremony for the 4-year-old preschoolers.

“We’re just excited and proud that we made it through to this point in the year because we honestly thought they would shut down the school districts possibly again and there goes preschool,” Shaffer said.

The celebration featured preschoolers from five different classrooms: Two at the Community Family Center in North Ogden and three at James Madison Elementary, T.O. Smith Elementary and the Ogden School District offices. It was held on the lawn at the Community Family Center on Lockwood Drive.

Celebrating preschool graduation is a big deal for the YMCA. According to Shaffer, it’s a springboard for the rest of a child’s education and allows the children to see what can happen in the future when they finish, whether it be graduating high school or college.

Typically, the graduation involves about 100 kids in an auditorium. “Pomp and Circumstance” is played, the children all parade in and a program is performed on the stage.

COVID-19 turned the big celebration into a drive-thru event last year, but this year, with daily case totals falling and vaccinations on the rise, an outdoor gathering was planned. Stations were set up for the different classrooms in an open-house style where the children could come and meet with their teachers, wear a cap and gown, take photos, receive a diploma and enjoy refreshments.

“This is obviously different. Not what we prefer, but we just can’t let them go away without having something to celebrate the accomplishment,” Shaffer said.

That celebration included visits from the Ogden police and fire departments, who were in attendance to see the kids and hand out items.

“That was the one I had fingers crossed (for) because they had to check with heads of departments to make sure if that was … OK to do again and they said yes, and I was so excited,” Shaffer said. “I was just like, ‘The fire truck’s got to be there.'”

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