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Drive-by parade: Greenwood native's mom gives graduate a day to remember

Mother’s Day commencement ceremonies at Hampton University in Virginia have been a long-standing tradition.

Until COVID-19.

Greenwood native and Hampton University graduate A’lexus Younger couldn’t go this year because, like other universities, Hampton canceled its commencement because of the pandemic.

That didn’t stop Younger’s mother, Charlene Calhoun, from making sure her daughter experienced something special in honor of her achievement.

Younger was at Calhoun’s parents’ house in Greenwood for what she thought would be the site of graduation pictures. Instead, Younger received a surprise drive-by graduation parade from about three dozen vehicles filled with family and friends. The cars lined up at the old Fred’s store on Highway 25 South and traveled the short distance to the Greenwood neighborhood. Many had balloons and signs honoring Younger.

As cars passed and dropped off gifts and donations to Younger, saxophonist Steven Galloway played “Pomp and Circumstance” in the decorated yard.

At first, Younger — who was dressed in her best for what she thought would be picture day — smiled and waved as the vehicles drove by. Then the tears started flowing as she felt the emotions of what it meant to her and her family.

“I had no idea what she was planning,” Younger said of her mom. “I’m just so grateful to my mom and everybody who participated today. My mom is amazing.”

She said the parade wasn’t “exactly the same” as commencement, but “this is the second best,” she said.

Calhoun said Mother’s Day has been a somber occasion since her mother died about eight years ago. She hoped to create a celebratory spirit this year.

“Mother’s Day weekend is difficult as it is, so we were looking forward to celebrating this particular weekend with her graduating college; but, in light of the pandemic, we just thought of an alternative,” Calhoun said.

That alternative turned into a personal parade and a memorable moment. Calhoun said she saw the idea online and made phone calls and sent out electronic invitations.

“I reached out to my parents’ neighborhood association to make sure it was OK,” Calhoun said. “And it was.”

Contact staff writer Greg K. Deal at 864-943-5647 or follow on Twitter @IJDEAL.

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