This has been an exciting final week of what has been the most fascinating, innovative, exhilarating, and often challenging school year for the Yeshiva of Central Queens in their “Virtual Learning Environment.” Students joined with their teachers for Zoom “baking parties” and virtual trips to Disneyland. Second graders participated in a virtual talent show, and third graders went on a “Happiness Scavenger Hunt.” Many teachers visited the students at home, dropping off gifts, and some classes came for a “socially distant” or “drive-thru” milk-and-cookies party in the yard to say their goodbyes to teachers and classmates.

Nursery and kindergarten students shared their virtual moving-up ceremonies with their teachers, friends, and families. Nursery students received packages with caps and gowns, a diploma, and a special treat – then joined in for a ceremony, with each student sharing a drawing of their favorite part of the year. The kindergarteners described a memorable experience from the school year followed by Morah Karen, their music teacher, leading them in songs of appreciation to Hashem. Rabbi Landsman, principal, and Morah Sharon Korn, pre-school director, sent the students off with a few words of encouragement and wished mazal tov to each student.

On Monday evening, June 15, the eighth-grade graduating class, attended their virtual award ceremony, with each student receiving an award for the effort and hard work they put into their education and for completing this leg of their academic journey. On June 16 and 17, the graduates gathered in the schoolyard for the first ever, and probably the most memorable “drive-in” graduation. Cars were decorated with balloons and streamers, words of gratitude, and mazal tovs. The yard was set up like a drive-in theater with two large screens and a stage.

Eitan Canter and Eva Bokhour, Salutatorians, said T’hilim for the State of Israel, followed by Eli Dyckman and Talia Cohen, Valedictorians, giving poignant speeches in front of their families, friends, and staff – live and via livestream. They spoke of their gratitude for all YCQ has given them over the years, and especially during this extraordinary and often difficult and confusing time, and how this connection has prepared them and their classmates both academically and emotionally for the next step – High School.

Finally, Olivia Kandinov, Rachel Poulad, Siggy Orenbuch, and Michael Kikov – recipients of the Keter Shem Tov Award, said T’hilim for peace and a special T’hilim for parents in front of the cheering (from their vehicles) crowd. The students were then called up, one at a time, to walk across the stage and receive his or her well-earned diploma as a member of the YCQ Graduating Class of 2020 at a graduation event to remember.

On the last day of school, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel, joined the entire school on Zoom and gave the students words of chizuk and a brachah on how to face these challenging times. This was followed by an amazing show, the Extreme Magic of Eric Wilzig.

After bittersweet goodbyes to the students, staff gathered for an afternoon of words of gratitude and thanks for the magnanimous task every staff member took on this year as they transformed overnight to a virtual environment. From jumping right into Zoom classes, including creative and new ways of teaching, to managing all the intricacies of running the building, and keeping YCQ going, the staff never stopped; YCQ never stopped. Even with the changes, the students grew and flourished this school year. Have a great summer!