OTTAWA -- High school graduation is an important milestone for students moving towards the next chapter of their lives, but this year‘s class of graduates have to put ceremonies on hold.

One local high school is celebrating their grads with a simple gesture.

Staff at Sacred Heart High School in Stittsville wanted to recognize the accomplishments of their graduating students, who are unable to celebrate with pomp and circumstance because COVID-19 has closed all schools and gatherings.

Vice Principal Mary Jane Gillier-Symes saw what a high school in St. Catharines did for their students and wanted to do the same. Her son designed a lawn sign that reads, "Home of a Sacred Heart Graduate - Class of 2020”. 

Gillier-Symes, along with school staff and volunteers, worked together to distribute the lawn signs, surprising more than 260 students. 

“We want them to know that we care,” Gillier-Symes says. “That we’re thinking about them and that they are important and it’s important that they be recognized by their community around their neighbourhood as well as from their school.”

Plans for a graduation ceremony have been postponed until the fall. The Ontario government plans to make an announcement about the remainder of the school year early next week.

Sacred Heart student council co-president Harresh Arulchelvam says he was surprised to see the sign when he left his house to take in a run.

“It just goes to show you how supportive our teachers are,” he says. “Being a graduate student i thought i was going to get prom walk down the stage for the graduation ceremony unfortunately it didn’t happen like that and I’m grateful for our teachers at Sacred.”

As council co-president, Arulchelvan has been working with teachers and students during the closure to ensure school goes forward as much as possible. Delivering morning announcements and information via their Instagram page @shhsstudco, keeping the students connected in a physically distant world.  His plans are to attend the University of Ottawa for accounting.