This year’s graduation will be unlike any other in recent history due to the outbreak of the coronavirus that has spread across the globe like wildfire. In March the 2019-20 Marlboro school year came to an unexpected and abrupt end by executive order of the Governor. It has left the Class of 2020 feeling cheated out all of the traditional year end celebrations – the class trip, prom and possibly the pomp and circumstance of a June graduation ceremony.
One man, Thomas Corcoran Jr. took it upon himself to make sure these graduates and their accomplishments were not forgotten. Using his own money, he had congratulatory signs made up and placed on the lawns of every graduating senior. In addition, the district followed suit, posting their own signs for the top 10 students of the Class of 2020 and had a small caravan of cars drive slowly past their homes, waiving and generally making a beautiful noise in their honor.
Alexa Bernicker is the Valedictorian of the Class of 2020.
“I felt very honored with the whole parade they had for the top 10. They came by our house, honked their horns while keeping social distance,” she said. “What Tommy did is amazing with the signs. I felt so special and touched and I felt like I was honored even though we’re in quarantine.”
Corcoran modestly says it was just a simple idea.
“It was a little something I did just to help,” he said. “I’ve been coaching at the school almost 25 years now. I know how important graduation is, their proms and giving them the speeches about being safe and to enjoy themselves.”
Corcoran has seen the Class of 2020 grow up from little kids to young adults. He has been friends with the Bernickers for years and has seen them at family parties.
“It was such an honor that she got this award [valedictorian] and I’ve known her since she was a baby,” he said. “It was more personal than anything else.”
Corcoran has had discussions with school principals, the administration and with the state and county officials [he is a county Legislator] about what will happen in June. He said everybody is thinking about solutions from using drive-in theaters, holding virtual scenarios and bringing graduates in one by one in time slots.
“It’s not gonna be perfect but my idea has always been to postpone and not cancel; to ride things out and see what happens because whether it’s daily or weekly, different things are happening and opening up,” he said. “To say on June 26th there won’t be something that’s not here today, which is six weeks away, is impossible to tell. I think the school district is doing a fantastic job on putting things in place with best and worst case scenarios. As things loosen up, we hope, over the next 6 to 8 weeks, then maybe we can make a decision at that point. They just want to have something in place, which is smart.”
Alexa said she has always kept on top of the online classes and assignments after school was closed.
“It’s different but so far, so good,” she said. “With all of the AP exams and everything, it’s all up to you to study. You can’t really go out and buy review books.”
Last week Alexa had two AP tests in physics and calculus that she took online.
Alexa said typically her Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays “were always busy. I had class all throughout the morning, starting at 9:30 until about 1pm, then an hour break and I had English at 2pm.
Alexa hopes her classmates, “just keep pushing through and we just have to keep a positive mindset.” She expects there will be a yearbook that will come out soon.
In the fall Alexa will be attending Wake Forest University in North Carolina where she will be studying Biology; “I always like my sciences.”
Corcoran said he is proud of the way the students have handled this unprecedented situation and, “I’m proud of the community and how it’s come together and done certain things to help not only business but the students. Marlborough residents have been fantastic through this and the students have been fantastic and great.”
Corcoran said it is important to choose something good out of the bad.
“The technology they’re now using to learn might benefit them in the future at some point,” he said. “Things changed after 911 and things will change after this. Sometimes it’s tough to see the bright side of things but I think something good will come out of this bad, on the teacher’s side, the student’s side and the families. I think that’s what we take out of this.”