High school principal covers 800 miles to visit all 612 graduating seniors: 'I just want them to know they were cared about'
A few weeks ago, Principal Virdie Montgomery realized that the seniors at Wylie High School in Wylie, Texas were not going to have the typical senior year experience. “I looked at that calendar and I saw all these things that the seniors were going to miss,” he tells Yahoo Life of the moment the remainder of the school year was canceled due to COVID-19. “We’re a very tradition-laden school and these kids have gone their whole lives looking at what all the seniors have done before them, and got to do, and that they looked forward to doing.”
So Principal Montgomery decided to do something special for the graduating class of Pirates (the school mascot) to try to compensate, in some small way, for what they were missing. He decided to personally visit all 612 graduating seniors.
“I just said to my secretary, ‘give me a map,’” Montgomery says. “I had 17 pages of Google Map addresses.” The journey took 12 days — racking up 79 hours in the car and 800 miles all over the area just outside of Dallas, Texas. His wife drove while he stayed in the passenger seat so he could more easily hop in and out of the car.
“The first day we started with a fresh tank of gas, we got back home and I said, ‘dang, we did 67 miles today,’ just going up one street and down the other,” he says.
Upon arriving at the students’ houses, Montgomery had a routine. “I would walk up to the door wearing a pirate mask, I’d knock on the door and the parent would have to go get them out of bed or wherever they were, and they’d come to the door and I’d tell them, ‘Things aren’t really happy at Wylie High School right now because you guys aren’t there, but one of these days we’re gonna snicker about it.’ And I’d hand them one of those little fun Snickers and a card and we’d go from there.” He also took selfies with each of the students, or a family member stand-in if the student wasn’t home, and compiled them all into a video.
And how did they react? “600 different personalities so that’s what you got,” Montgomery says. “I had one young lady, Lauren Gurley, I went to her house and she wasn’t there so I left the card and her mother messaged me and said, ‘I got the card and I put it some place and I can’t find it, it really means a lot to her would you send me another.’ I said, ‘I’ll just bring you another.’ That kid didn’t know I was coming back and as soon as she saw me she burst into tears. I told her that was the most special one I had the whole time.”
Montgomery says he hopes that some form of graduation will take place later this month, adding, “My hope for the Class of 2020 is that they leave here knowing they had one of the most unique last two months of school.”
He adds, “I just want them to know they were cared about. That we understood, we felt their pain, and we wanted to make this as easy for them as possible.”
Montgomery may have lifted the spirits of his graduating class with his impromptu visits, but he maintains he did it as much for himself as for them. “I told them up front, I said, ‘This is for me, I can’t see you guys every day I’m missing your softball, your golf, your track, your choir concerts, I need to see y’all. This is for me, y’all could give a flying flip about me but I need to see y’all.’ And that’s what I did.”
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