Community members are showing their support for local high school seniors who probably won’t be able to celebrate with a traditional graduation ceremony.

Family and friends of Katie McDowell came together on Saturday to honor the Grove City High School senior – while practicing social distancing because of COVID-19.

“It was really amazing to see everybody,” said McDowell, 18, of Wolf Creek Township.

The surprise included a large banner made by Gear Custom Products and Designs, Grove City.

The banner features a picture of McDowell and says “Congratulations Katie! GCHS Senior Class of 2020.”

It’s still on display at McDowell Implement in Wolf Creek Township, which is owned by the McDowell family.

About 20 vehicles lined the driveway on Saturday, when the family told McDowell that they needed to make a quick stop at the farm.

Some people stood outside their vehicles cheering as McDowell arrived, creating a parade of sorts.

“We were trying to think of a way to boost Katie’s spirits,” said her older sister Frankie LaScola of Evans City.

LaScola, who graduated from Grove City High School in 2006, remembers the highlights of her senior year, like spending quality time with friends and teachers right before graduation.

“By the time you’re a senior, you’ve bonded with these people,” she said, adding that her sister is one of the top 10 students in her class.

The family – that includes their parents Anna Marie and Dave – wanted to give McDowell a memorable experience, especially since classes for the remainder of the school year are being conducted via remote instruction.

“She was pretty speechless,” LaScola said of her sister’s reaction.

They have seen similar yard signs popping up in the Grove City area, and the school district is making signs for the seniors, Mrs. McDowell said.

“I think we have a good community,” said McDowell, who will be attending Penn State Behrend to study engineering.

She hopes that the high school plans some kind of alternative graduation celebration, and she’ll be hosting her own party later this year.

She is disappointed about missing out on some things, like prom, the basketball banquet, and the end-of-the-year concert.

McDowell is on the high school’s volleyball and basketball teams, and she’s a member of concert band and the National Honor Society.

“And I’m trying to connect with as many as I can,” she said of keeping in touch with her friends. 

Her family encourages others to get creative in showing these seniors that they care.

“They’ve really invested time and effort,” LaScola said.

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