As Rancho Mirage High School seniors picked up their graduation packets Monday evening, it was an emotional scene for teachers and students.
High school graduation ceremonies are a storied tradition, launching students from grade school out into the world, but this year, coronavirus had other plans for the Class of 2020.
The soon-to-be graduates are gearing up for a different type commemoration this year.
"When everything was getting really serious and I found out we were having a virtual graduation, it kind of made me a little sad," said Byanca Mendez, a RMHS senior.
When Mendez stopped coming into school in mid-March due to coronavirus, she wasn't sure if she'd see some of her classmates or teachers again.
She was met with a special surprise Monday when she came to pick up her cap and gown.
"Seeing all my teachers made me really happy," Mendez said. "Seeing all them with all their little signs and stuff, it brought joy to me."
Hundreds of cars drove through the school's parking lot – the line wrapped around the campus. Students said the circumstances never could have been anticipated, but that's what makes them "2020 strong."
"They're going to go onto college, they're going to look back on this, and they're always gonna be remembered – not just because it was a pandemic, but because they're strong and they're going to get through it," said Heather Mendez, Byanca's mother.
The seniors this year are missing out on some of the biggest moments of their high school careers.
"It was a little emotional because she's missing prom, she's missing grad night, she's not being able to say goodbye to her friends," Mendez said of her daughter.
And despite the social distance, the seniors' accomplishments are being given the recognition they deserve.
"Class of 2021 or 2022 – I mean (their graduation) is going to be special, but it's not gonna be as special as ours," Mendez said. "We're going to be remembered – it's class of 2020."
RMHS's virtual graduation ceremony is set to go live on YouTube June 3 at 7 p.m.
Also this week, caps and gowns were distributed at Shadow Hills High School and Indio High school.
Video from that distribution is below.