Banner year for PYA grads

Rob Maeske
Brendan Pinckney poses with the prototype for the banners honoring the 2020 graduates of Penn Yan Academy.

Donations being accepted for individual photo banners to be displayed in downtown Penn Yan.

With Governor Cuomo’s announcement that schools in New York State will not reopen this school year, those students in their Senior year are set to miss out on several traditions. For high school Seniors, casualties of the Coronavirus pandemic include the Spring sports season, Senior Prom, a formal graduation ceremony and that time-honored keeper of memories, their last high school yearbook. In communities across the state and the country, parents and schools have been finding ways to honor their Senior students. In Penn Yan, those efforts will come in the form of banners honoring the Senior class to be displayed on the lamp posts along Main Street.

The idea began with several parents and educators making suggestions on Facebook of what could be done to assuage the disappointment of Senior students who would be missing out on so much in their last year of high school. A local parent and member of Penn Yan Academy’s booster group Operation Graduation, Sara Eskildsen made the suggestion of the banners and the idea gained traction quickly. 

“I shared the idea of photo banners and suggested that we go with Photography at Your Service because they are a local business,” said Eskildsen. “I was contacted the next day by someone who knows I’m part of Operation Graduation and it kind of grew from there.”

Communicating with Dan Condella for the Village of Penn Yan, Dave Pullen at Penn Yan Academy and the Operation Graduation committee itself, Eskildsen got the details of the plan worked out and work on the banner project began. Local photographer Mark Griffin with his business, Photography at Your Service, was chosen to design the banners and the quality of the photos submitted by Seniors, in some cases offering to take professional quality photos of the students at a highly reduced rate. The banners are set to be five feet high and there are currently two prototypes in contention for the finished product.

 Funding for the project has come completely from donations.

 “Several people in the community have donated money,” said Eskildsen. “Donations have been received from family members, P.Y.A. alumni, memebers of the community, local businesses and school-related organizations. It has truly been a community effort.”

 Donations for the project are still being accepted and will be throughout the Summer, with any surplus funds being tagged for additional support of the Senior class.

 “We will take donations of any denomination from now until graduation and even into Summer,” said Eskildsen. “If we can salvage some sort of face-to-face celebration for the kids before they head off to the next stage of their lives, we would love to give them that opportunity for celebration and closure.”

 Those wishing to donate can use the app Venmo with the recipient being @Sara-Eskildsen or send a check by mail to Operation Graduation at P.O. Box 659, Penn Yan, NY 14527.