BATESBURG-LEESVILLE, S.C. — The Town of Batesburg-Leesville celebrated its high school seniors with the new annual tradition of a parade called the 'Panther Prowl.'
"This is the result of one of what I call COVID Blessings," said Batesburg-Leesville High School Principal Sonya Bryant. "Last year, we did it differently. Kids loved it and want to do it that way again this year, so we're excited."
For the parade, seniors get to drive in their vehicles and can decorate it to celebrate their achievement. All the graduates then travel to the parking lots of each of the elementary schools and middle schools to remember their time growing up in the community.
After the parade is over, students go back to the gym to participate in college and career signing day to show where they will be going next year.
"We have a great community spirit here in Batesburg-Leesville, and our community is so invested in our kids and our schools, and they were able to be more involved last year because they lined the parade route," explained Principal Bryant. "We just like having everybody involved who wants to be there."
Seniors were given the choice to go back to the old tradition or continue with the parade. Principal Bryant says there was a lot of support to have the parade this year.
The principal loves to see the joy it brings to the seniors who participate in this new tradition.
"I think it's hugely unique and it just speaks to the spirit of Batesburg-Leesville and how close knit we are, how much we all love and support each other and it's just a truly special place," said Principal Bryant. "We're just grateful to be here and I'm blessed to be a principal in a community where we are so supported."
Harrison Smith is one of the seniors graduating in the Class of 2021. Next year, he'll be heading to Clemson University's Honors College.
"We go around town and everybody cheers for us. It's a very good tradition that we started last year, and it means a lot to us seniors," said Smith. "Especially in this community, we are very, very tight. We act like a family. We are a family. And it just feels good to see people you've known all your life on the side of the road cheering on for you to move on to college."
Smith decided to decorate his car with a Clemson flag and two banners from when he played football and was a part of track for the high school. He says it means a lot to have teachers there to cheer the seniors on as they graduate from high school.
"Especially after a year like this year, we needed something like this," explained Smith. "To have something like this together, when we've had people going virtual, we've had people going hybrid all year, finally something like this is very good for us."
Principal Bryant wants people to know students will always be welcomed home in Batesburg-Leesville.
"I hope they know that this community and this school loves them," said Principal Bryant. "This district loves them. They're part of a larger Panther family that they'll always be a part of and that we are always here for them because they are part of us."