Jordan Stevens

Jordan Stevens is shown among his classmates prior to the ceremony prior to North Star High School’s commencement ceremony in Boswell, PA., Friday, May 22, 2020.

The Class of 2020’s senior year was cut short this spring – but an effort debuting on The Tribune-Democrat’s website is aiming to keep the region’s hundreds of graduates in the spotlight.

The newspaper is launching a Virtual Graduations webpage that will enable 38 public and private schools across the region to showcase their graduates’ senior pictures, class photos and other images, Advertising Director Mary Ann Rizzo said.

Stories from the newspaper’s “Senior Salute” series will also be featured – and potentially, web streams of graduation ceremonies, she said.

“We know the Class of 2020 has been through a lot,” Rizzo said. “We want to make this special for them – and make sure they are recognized.”

The page will list every graduate’s name under his or her school’s title in a yearbook-style format.

Vaughn Burnheimer, who works in the newspaper’s creative services department, said he has already spoken to dozens of schools across Cambria and Somerset counties, as well as parts of Bedford, Indiana and Westmoreland counties.

“We’re working with high school administrators, principals, yearbook staffs, principals and secretaries right now to collect photos and information,” Rizzo said, noting it will be up to each district community to provide the content. “If schools share videos, we can add them, too.”

Burnheimer said 14 schools from as far as far north as Northern Cambria and as far south as Turkeyfoot Valley have already submitted content.

The site is viewable at www.tribdem.com/virtual_graduations. Submissions are still being uploaded and area schools will be able to continue providing images and other details over the next few weeks, Rizzo said.

The goal is to make the site a one-stop Class of 2020 destination for parents and readers by the time The Tribune’s annual graduation section runs in the June 20 print edition, Rizzo said.

“It will allow parents and community members to easily share all of this with their families and friends,” she said.

Local businesses will have an opportunity to sponsor their home districts, Burnheimer said. Anyone interested in sponsoring a school can call 814-532-5162.

Once the page goes live, a link to it will be posted on www.tribdem.com. The content will remain on the website over the next year and eventually the graduating Class of 2021’s photos will be added, Rizzo said.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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