107°F
weather icon Clear

Faith Lutheran grads get to take spin at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Updated May 23, 2020 - 1:20 pm

Sanniyah Haye arrived a few hours early Friday night for her high school graduation at an unusual venue — the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The ceremony is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the 18-year-old said. “It didn’t fit what any of us were expecting.”

Haye was in a car with her aunt — who was driving — and her mother, grandfather and grandmother. She was wearing a traditional cap and gown.

In total, 256 seniors from Faith Lutheran Middle School &High School received their diplomas in their cars with their families, then took an approximately mile-long “victory lap” around the racetrack.

They heard a graduation address — as well as remarks from the class valedictorian — via their car radios using the speedway’s low-power FM transmitter.

Steve Buuck, CEO at Faith Lutheran, said Thursday that after all the things the high school seniors missed out on this year, he hopes the graduation will be a “unique, memorable experience” they won’t forget.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the private Christian school — along with other schools across the Las Vegas Valley — wasn’t able to hold a traditional graduation ceremony. Some are postponing their ceremonies while others took steps to find alternatives.

Friday night’s event marked the first time the Las Vegas Motor Speedway has hosted a high school graduation.

“We’re just excited we’re able to give these kids the opportunity to have a commencement,” speedway spokesman Jeff Motley said Thursday, adding it will be an unusual story graduates can tell for decades to come.

Over the next week, the speedway will host a handful of smaller graduation ceremonies, Motley said, adding that he wasn’t sure which schools are participating.

Faith Lutheran is Nevada’s largest private school, with more than 1,900 students. Its campus is near downtown Summerlin.

In early April, the school was considering options for graduation — whether to postpone it until the summer or hold an in-person ceremony.

School officials looked into large venues they could rent and reached out to the speedway.

Buuck said holding graduation at the speedway was a “crazy idea” initially, but because it can accommodate tens of thousands of spectators, it offered plenty of space for approximately 3,000 attendees to spread out.

But after consulting with health experts, school officials decided attendees should stay in their cars to be respectful of social distancing guidelines, he said.

On Friday night when each student and their family arrived at the speedway, they were handed a checkered flag, keepsake mask with Faith Lutheran’s logo on it and a graduation program.

Ryan Schofield, 17, was in the driver’s seat of a car with his parents. They arrived about 1½ hours before the ceremony to get in one of the lines, marked with chalk.

He said he’s glad the school was able to do something for graduation under the circumstances and for the chance to see friends.

After school closed and transitioned to remote learning, Schofield said he focused on the “little things” that were within his control. “You kind of make the best of it.”

He plans to go to college in Hawaii to study oceanography and environmental science policy.

Haye said she’s grateful for the opportunity to have a graduation ceremony since a lot of Clark County School District schools aren’t having one this spring.

She plans to attend Virginia State University on a full-ride academic scholarship to study computer engineering.

It was blustery Friday at the speedway as families listened to graduation speakers, honking after each one finished. Some graduates got out of their cars for the turning of the tassels.

After listening to an approximately 30-minute ceremony, each car, one-by-one, drove to the starting line. During that time, each student’s name and information such as their future plans was announced.

Then, each car made an almost complete lap around the speedway. Students and their families weren’t allowed to travel at NASCAR speeds, though. They were instructed to abide by a 40-mph speed limit.

Valedictorian Philip Root was the first to get his diploma on the racetrack.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Local Videos
A motorist driving recklessly lost control of their vehicle and smashed into a house
Las Vegas police said a motorist driving recklessly lost control of their vehicle, which then smashed into a house at 401 South Torrey Pines Drive. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Las Vegas police briefing on shooting during Black Lives Matter protest
Sheriff Joe Lombardo briefs the media on shootings during the Black Lives Matter protest that left one man dead and a Metro officer in critical condition on Monday, June 1, 2020.
Areas of Red Rock Canyon reopen - Video
The BLM Southern Nevada District reopened access to areas of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on June 1, 2020, including; Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive, Red Rock Overlook, Late Night Trailhead, Red Spring Boardwalk, Calico Basin and Kraft Mountain Trailheads. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rebel store looted
The manager of a Rebel gas station talks about looting at the Tropicana and Koval store over the weekend. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fremont Street Experience is counting down to reopening - Video
A countdown clock is running for the reopening of the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas on Friday afternoon, May 29, 2020. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CrossFit Apollo reopens after COVID-19 shutdown - Video
CrossFit Apollo gym co-owner and a member talk about their first day back, Friday, May 29, 2020, after gyms and fitness centers were closed during the coronavirus shutdown. (Glenn Puit and Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gym owner Rob Martinez talks about reopening.
Rob Martinez, owner of The Gym Las Vegas, talks about reopening his gym under Phase Two of Nevada's reopening plan. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas gyms reopen.
Desiree Ford talks about getting back to the gym after Nevada moves into Phase Two of its reopening plan. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CrossFit gym reopens
Chad Cole, co-owner of CrossFit Apollo, talks about the reopening of his gym as Nevada moves into Phase Two. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Train carrying decommissioned nuclear reactor passes through Las Vegas - VIDEO
The train carrying a decommissioned nuclear reactor vessel from Southern California is passing through Las Vegas on Thursday afternoon. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MountainView Hospital protest
Nurses at MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas hold a protest Thursday morning over what they say are planned layoffs and pay cuts by the hospital’s owner, HCA Healthcare. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
COVID-19 testing site moves to UNLV Tropicana parking garage - Video
New Clark County COVID-19 testing site at UNLV Tropicana Avenue parking garage opens Wednesday and includes pediatric and walk-up testing. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Motorcyclist killed in crash in southwest Las Vegas - Video
Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Travis Smaka confirmed a motorcyclist was killed in a crash with another vehicle at Durango Drive and the 215 Beltway just before 9 a.m., Monday, May 25, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas man runs 100-mile marathon for veterans on Memorial Day - Video
Pete Madredes ran a 100-mile marathon at Exploration Peak Park in Las Vegas to raise money for Mission 22, a nonprofit that supports veterans with mental illness. He started Sunday morning, May 24, and ended Memorial Day morning. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Neon Museum reopens after coronavirus shutdown - Video
The Neon Museum reopened Friday night, May 22, after it shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Working at home with kids
Educators Jessica Houchins and Christopher Houchins discuss their work life merged with their parenting life during quarantine, at their home in Henderson on Thursday, May 14, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
6.5 earthquake in western Nevada - Video
A 6.5-magnitude earthquake damaged U.S. Highway 95, which was closed west of Tonopah near Coaldale, on Friday, May 15, 2020. (Nye County Sheriff's Department)
Southern Nevada Health District discusses contact tracing
Devin Raman, senior disease investigator at SNHD, explains how contact tracing works, noting how local clusters of disease are tracked.
Cowabunga Bay Prepares For Patrons
The management and staff at Cowabunga Bay in hopes of opening soon are implementing coronavirus safety measures to ensure patrons are happy and safe.
Pickleball courts coming to Sunset Park - Video
Clark County officials broke ground Tuesday on a championship pickleball tournament complex at Sunset Park, expected to open by next spring. (Clark County)
Great-grandmother meets great-granddaughter through window
A global pandemic couldn't keep June Watkins from meeting her 1-month-old great-granddaughter, even if it had to be through a window. Christie Jensen, the baby's mother, brought together four generations of women with her mother, DeeDee Jensen, when they brought the baby to meet Watkins for the first time ahead of Mother's Day on Sunday.
Firefighters deliver free pizza to coronavirus testers - VIDEO
The Professional Firefighters of Nevada delivered free pizza and soft drinks to Nevada National Guard members and health care workers who are performing COVID-19 testing at the UNLV School of Medicine. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police investigate fatal crash - VIDEO
One person died at University Medical Center after a two-vehicle crash at West Russell and South Fort Apache roads, Thursday morning, May 7. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Southern Nevada Health District COVID-19 update
Southern Nevada Health District staff conduct a video briefing to provide updates about the public health agency’s COVID-19 response in Clark County.
Greg Zanis, the cross maker, has died - VIDEO
Greg Zanis was the Illinois carpenter who built and erected the 58 simple white crosses in the shadow of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign that turned into a focal point for a city’s grief after the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting in 2017. He died on Monday, May 4, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seniors, people with disabilities getting special shopping hour at Costco - VIDEO
Costco will implement new rules Monday that, in addition to requiring face masks, will allow seniors 60 and older to shop from 9-10 a.m. weekdays. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson Coalition for Responsible Government protest
Henderson Coalition for Responsible Government protest. (Julie Wootton-Greener/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Desert Oasis students celebrate senior prom with parade - VIDEO
Desert Oasis High School’s senior prom was supposed to be held Saturday, but it was canceled when schools statewide were closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson winery reacts to Sisolak's economic plan - VIDEO
Governor Sisolak's reopening plan is easier said than done for the only winery in Clark County. Grape Expectations is trying to figure out how to open up shop when they are three businesses in one. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Locals rush to reopened tennis courts
Daniel Nunez and Sarah Germain made immediate plans to go to their local tennis court, Darling Tennis Center, when they received an email that the facility would open on May 1.
Allegiant Air employees deliver snacks and drinks to food pantry - VIDEO
Allegiant Air donated food items to the Vegas Community Pantry in Las Vegas. The snack and drinks are commissary items that Allegiant planned to serve to passengers who were flying to Las Vegas for March Madness. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Health care workers protest over unsafe working conditions - VIDEO
Healthcare workers from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) gather at Southern Hills Hospital to protest unsafe working conditions at Las Vegas HCA-affiliated hospitals and demand that OSHA intervene. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Neighborhood rallies behind grad amid the coronavirus lockdown
Riley Lynn Thacker's mom put a sign in their yard to congratulate her daughter completing her senior year and neighbors followed suit. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST