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Ursuline Academy seniors get together from a distance as school lights up the night for them

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Ursuline Academy turned on its lights the night of April 24 as a show of support for its 39 seniors. The lights reflect off Cool Spring Reservoir. (Dialog photo/Don Blake)

WILMINGTON — What was intended to be a quiet show of support for Ursuline Academy’s 39 seniors became something of an impromptu, socially distanced reunion on the evening of April 24. As the school’s lights were turned on at 8:20 p.m., for “Light Up the Night,” reflecting off Cool Spring Reservoir, the parking lot was filled with those seniors, many of whom hadn’t seen each other in person since the girls were sent home in mid-March.

This weekend was supposed to include both the school prom, along with a reunion for classes whose graduation year ended in a 0 or 5. The Class of 1970 was to have marked its 50th anniversary.

Ursuline’s seniors shouted at each other from their cars and rose through sunroofs to dance. Several staff members were there to greet them, none more popular than Ursuline Sister Betty McAdams, who canvassed the parking lot in her mask to see the soon-to-be graduates.

Ursuline seniors hang out on and around their cars with the school and the student life center lit up in the background. (Dialog photo/Mike Lang)

Sister Betty, the chairperson of the theology department, was just as happy to see them.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “We need all the uplifting things we can get. Signs of hope. We’re all in this together.”

Senior Corinne Furey said she and her classmates were making the best of the situation. During one of the senior class group chats, a few mentioned that they should show up for the lighting ceremony, “and everyone hopped on the train. It’s really nice.”

In the parking spot next to Furey, Lauren Cool took everything in with a few members of her family.

“It’s just so wonderful to see everyone. It’s been crazy not being with everyone, especially these last months of senior year. I miss everyone,” she said.

“We have our Zoom chats for classes, and our whole group fits in a group chat because we’re only 39. We’ve been texting a lot, Face Time, everything. But it’s nice to see everyone from a distance.”

Cool’s mother, Mardee, graduated from Ursuline in 1986. She feels for the Class of 2020 because they won’t get to experience the unique traditions the school has. It’s been hard for her to watch both as a parent and an alumna.

“There’s just so much that they’re missing that we had,” she said. “We’ll do anything we can to get them back to have a little bit of the experience that we had.”

Mardee Cool was not surprised that the parking lot was full. She said it’s normal for this senior class to do something like this as a group.

One other senior, Katie Jones, watched the action standing through a sunroof in her car. She said the class appreciated the gesture from school leaders.

“They have been really supportive throughout this whole process, and this is just something extra that they did for us that really shows that they care so much about us,” Jones said.

“We just miss each other so much, so being here together tonight is kind of like a good ending to our school year.”