Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Banners raised to celebrate Hurley seniors


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Hurley - The Hurley community and parents of the graduating class of 2020 have taken lemons and made lemonade in finding alternate ways to celebrate the students as traditional events continue to be canceled amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, employees of the Hurley Department of Public Works, placed 46 banners on the decorative lighting poles along Silver Street in the downtown. Each banner depicts a photo and first name of a graduating high school senior along with a message of congratulations.

"They will be up until after graduation in late May," said Scott Santini, director of public works.

The project was a collaboration of parents and Last Blast, a group of parents and senior students who raise funds for the annual senior class trip, college campus visits and other events that could not be held this year, said Melissa Oja, Hurley middle and high school principal. This was an independent effort of parents with assistance provided by school yearbook advisor Shannon Peterson, who provided the student photos and names, she said.

The parents and Last Blast are the driving force in planning and financing the project, she said. The Hurley Area Chamber of Commerce and the city of Hurley provided the approvals to put the banners up, she said.

"This year the circumstances require us to do different things," Oja said. "This piece is phenomenal as a way to celebrate seniors and recognize their accomplishments."

The 46 students include two students who had already graduated in January, said Krissy Colassaco, a parent and member of Last Blast.

The idea is really just to celebrate kids who will not enjoy some of the traditional senior year events and activities.

"So this was a parent and community effort to show our support for the kids," Colassaco said. "They all deserve it."

This time of year is really important to the graduating seniors. Young people are resilient and will be fine but it helps if they can see this major life event acknowledged by parents, who maybe sometimes take it more seriously than the students, she said.

"We will also be challenging other school districts to do the same," Colassaco said.

The banners, made by Rapid Graphics of Ironwood, line both sides of Silver Street in the downtown. The parents are exploring ideas for the month of May in collaboration with the chamber, she said. The projects may include signage and lighting decorations around town and possibly mini scholarships.

"We are still trying to figure it out," Colassaco said. 

Kevin Genisot, Hurley School District administrator, said the banners are simply another sign that people are all in this crisis together and truly value the students.

"When organizations like this come together to coordinate such a wonderful and unique way of honoring our seniors, you know the community pride and support is at full force," Genisot said.

At the Monday school board meeting Genisot said that while graduation ceremonies will have mitigating circumstances, Principal Oja and a team are working on creating a meaningful experience for students and families. The event will be edited into a video that will be posted on the school website for the community.

"We will all continue to creatively find ways to make this a special celebration for all of our seniors," Genisot said. "The COVID-19 virus may have changed the way we typically do business, but it won't dampen the excitement, support, or community involvement when it comes to celebrating our communities' most treasured resources, our young adults."