2 weeks, 32 high schools, 13,500 students: The story behind the TMS graduations

2 weeks, 32 high schools, 13,500 students: The story behind the TMS graduations

Guyer High School graduates took their seat on turn 1 at TMS. Photo by NICHOLAS SAKELARIS/CoServ

 

By NICHOLAS SAKELARIS | CoServ 

COVID-19 canceled many events this year, but it also prompted creativity and improvisation that resulted in memorable graduation ceremonies for 13,500 North Texas high school graduates and their families.

In the spring, right before the first scheduled NASCAR race of the season, CoServ and Texas Motor Speedway were poised to announce a community partnership that included special Race Day recognition of educators and first responders, and ticket giveaways for CoServ Members and Customers.

TMS has been a CoServ Member since it opened in far north Fort Worth in 1996; while the racetrack itself is not powered by CoServ, several of the parking lots and adjoining premises are.

These premises played a key role when the partnership was initially discussed, according to Donnie Clary, CoServ’s President and CEO.

“When tornadoes, flooding or other natural disasters hit North Texas, they could cause widespread power outages that prompt CoServ to enact our Emergency Restoration Plan,” he said. “Having the option of establishing a staging area on TMS premises for CoServ’s Operations crews is a huge deal for us.”

And when COVID-19 shut down schools and high school graduations, TMS and CoServ worked with Denton County officials to put together a plan to honor the Class of 2020.

Over a two-week period, TMS hosted graduation ceremonies for 32 high schools and 13,500 seniors, mostly from Denton County. About two dozen CoServ Employees volunteered to help with traffic control so that thousands of students and family members could safely enter and exit the parking lot.

The socially distanced seniors, most of them masked until it was time to walk the stage, received their diplomas at the finish line to symbolize the end of their high school career. In racing, the finish line is also the starting line – so for the Class of 2020, it also symbolized the beginning of their journey into adulthood.

“A high school graduation ceremony is such an important achievement and lifelong memory for students, as well as their families and friends,” said Eddie Gossage, TMS President and General Manager. “We are honored by the opportunity to support Denton County high school graduates and to work with CoServ to help make this occasion as festive as possible.”

Donnie said that TMS, like CoServ, has a long track record of serving the community.

“For more than 20 years, Texas Motor Speedway has consistently shown its commitment to North Texas communities,” Donnie said.  “So it’s no surprise that they stepped up to honor the Class of 2020 in this way, and we are thrilled to call them a community partner.”

How were the ceremonies?

FAMILIES: Braswell parent Barbara Martinez feared that her son, Sully, and other Class of 2020 graduates would have nightmares about not having an official commencement. But the TMS event helped provide closure. “At first, I was skeptical,” she said. “But it was memorable. They did a really good job.”

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