MFL MarMac virtual awards ceremony comes together with group effort

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With school closed due to COVID-19, MFL MarMac held its annual senior awards night virtually this year. The district used live streaming via Zoom YouTube so the awards could be viewed in real time by all seniors, their families and other community members. This image offers a look at the empty auditorium with the camera set up and principal Larry Meyer at the podium. Producer Cheri Moser can be viewed on the video screen to the left.

Twenty community members handed out scholarships live from their homes during MFL MarMac’s virtual senior awards ceremony on May 6. This screenshot shows the presenters gathered via Zoom.

Dr. Mark Fohey gets ready to present the Family Dentistry Associates of Monona Scholarship from his home office.

MFL MarMac’s annual senior awards night is always one of the key events leading up to commencement, as community members and school staff present scholarships and academic honors to the soon-to-be graduates.

Even with school closed due to COVID-19, it was still important to continue the tradition for the class of 2020, said Cheri Moser, a McGregor resident and member of the district’s “CommUNITY Committee.” 

“They missed out on a lot this last semester,” she said, “so we want to do everything we can to celebrate them.”

“We want to keep our seniors on schedule and on time—no matter what—for their special days, which they’ve been waiting for for a long time,” added high school principal Larry Meyer.

Over the past month, Moser worked with Meyer and MFL MarMac staff members Leslie Henkes, Mary Winter, Melissa Haberichter and Ryan Martindale to hold the event May 6, as originally scheduled. But there was one big difference: it was held virtually.

The school used live streaming via Zoom YouTube so the awards could be viewed in real time by all seniors, their families and other community members. Meyer presented from the stage of the empty high school auditorium while 20 community members handed out the scholarships live from their homes. 

Martindale, the district’s technology specialist, had a two-camera set-up in the auditorium in order to broadcast the event. Moser, a former television executive news producer, helped produce the ceremony.

“We knew it was important that Mr. Meyer be live from the auditorium, as that is where the awards night would usually take place,” Moser said. “We wanted it to feel like a ‘home base’ and bring comfort to all those watching. We were trying to add in some normalcy with all that’s going on.”

“The process was all new,” Meyer noted, “but the way the group pulled together and found a way to get it done was a testament to the initiative and adaptation of the people within our school district. A special thank you goes to Cheri Moser.”

In addition to the live presentation of 32 scholarships, the ceremony included a video announcing high school departmental awards in art, science, social studies, band, vocal, philosophy, Spanish and math. These awards are usually handed out by the teachers during a daytime ceremony. The video also listed other honors, awards and cords earned by the 2020 seniors.

According to Moser, 312 households watched the presentation when it was live. In the 12 hours after, it was watched over 200 additional times.

“I feel the night went exceptionally well, especially being a completely new endeavor,” Meyer said. “It took a lot of planning, and the work to pull it together paid off. We all just want to be able to give the seniors the things they so richly deserve.”

MFL MarMac will have another virtual ceremony this Sunday, May 17, at 2 p.m., with a live stream graduation ceremony. This ceremony is not meant to replace graduation this year, as the school plans to host an in-person commencement experience in the future.

The virtual graduation will include live speeches from the valedictorian, salutatorian, class president, school board president, high school principal and superintendent. There will also be some other fun surprises to celebrate the graduates.

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