Somerset Island Prep's Class of 2020 wore life jackets beneath their caps and gowns as they received their diplomas on the water

By Rachel DeSantis
June 01, 2020 01:35 PM
Mark Hedden/

Graduation day was one to remember for a Florida high school’s class of 2020, as they received their diplomas while riding jet skis.

Somerset Island Prep, a charter school in Key West, got creative when it came to sending their seniors off amid the coronavirus pandemic, and opted to hold graduation not by land, but by sea, to make sure students kept their distance.

Graduating seniors wore life jackets under their caps and gowns, and drove their jet skis past Principal Tom Rompella to receive their diplomas, the school said in a press release.

Rompella stood docked off the Southernmost House, a historic boutique hotel in Key West.

“This final ceremony for our seniors represents the same theme that has played out throughout the entirety of their time at Island Prep,” he said in the release. “That no barrier is too large to overcome and that through creativity and hard work we can overcome any challenge.”

Mark Hedden/

Students received jet ski lessons prior to the ceremony, and video showed them cruising in the water past Rompella as they received their diplomas while wearing masks.

“Unique times call for unique measures,” the principal said in the video. “We’ve been telling our class of 2020 that any challenge can be overcome, so this is another challenge that we’re gonna overcome, and it’s gonna be their last challenge that they overcome for high school as they go out and start their life.”

The 11-member class of 2020 is the school’s first graduating class, according to Florida Keys Weekly. Island Prep’s curriculum allows for students to simultaneously obtain a high school diploma and a college associate’s degree.

The unconventional graduation ceremony comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted social distancing guidelines across the country.

As of Monday afternoon, Florida has seen at least 56,155 cases and 2,450 deaths attributed to coronavirus, according to The New York Times. The U.S., meanwhile, has had at least 1.7 million cases and 104,381 deaths.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.