Dreams changed: Village honors seniors with banners

Southwest Michigan

LAWRENCE, Mich. (WOOD) — Graduating seniors are dealing with the new reality they won’t get their traditional ceremonies and open houses right now. 

One village in southwest Michigan thought up a new way to put their achievements up on display for the everyone to see. 

Lawrence, a village of just under 1,000 residents, put up 36 banners, 36 portraits of their senior class, hung up and down main street for the seniors whose lives have been totally changed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“There was a thought, we wondered what we can do to give them something in return for their hard work as opposed to absolutely nothing,” Village President David Quick said. “We hope we have done them justice given them something to smile about even though things are different now.”

There won’t be a stage, no ceremony, no sports even for the Lawrence class of 2020. It’s the things we’ve come to expect which were taken away so quickly that Quick says are the hardest to live without. 

“I feel bad for these students because these are memories, these are things we took for granted and things they’ll never get back,” Quick said. “It was encouraging, on the flip side to see how quickly we turned these banners out, it was a real community effort.”

Quick estimates each of the 36 banners cost roughly $30. They were hung less than a week ago, though of only a week or so before that. 

“We have a great alumni association and people who feel the same way I do,” Quick said. “We wanted to do something special for this class, through donations and cooperation between the community development group and downtown development authority we got this done. Being a small village, a smaller school district with 36 seniors, it makes it a little easier, more fiscally doable to provide something like this to them.”

The 36 banners represent dreams and hopes each senior had some which will be fulfilled and many which were changed. Such is the case for Juan Villanueva. 

“These banners that we have now, it shows a lot of support that we get from our town. You know, they’re with us with this horrible event that’s happening right now. You know they’re just supporting us,” Villanueva said. “This means a lot to me and I also think it means a lot to my fellow classmates. I’m just really thankful to have people like that in our, in my town.”

Because it is his town after all. 

“I am Mr. Lawrence, it’s a title I earned at a pageant. It was a lot of fun and I’m really proud to represent this place,” Villanueva said. “It is a small town and I feel like we all know each other, it’s a brotherhood, a sisterhood, feels like an extended family.”

Villanueva’s picture on the banner which reads, “Lawrence Public Schools Class of 2020” showcases a picture he never thought would see the light of day. He’s wearing a tie with margaritas on it. 

“It is my favorite tie, and it has margaritas on it but I was not expecting, if I would’ve known this would’ve happened I would’ve worn a different, more professional looking tie,” Villanueva explained. 

The picture, like his senior year, were supposed to play out much differently. 

“I am disappointed, and I’m also sad that my last year, my senior year ended like this. You know, I’m not going to be able to play baseball,” Villanueva said. “Not going to be able to spend the year with my fellow classmates, so yeah I’m kind of disappointed with how it turned out.”

His shortstop position left empty on a field untouched by cleat in weeks. Villanueva’s dreams too seem to have been caught looking.

“Ever since I was a little boy baseball’s always been on my mind,” Villanueva said. “I’ve been telling my parents I’m going to go pro. Now it’s like with all this happening I don’t get to have the chance to go out and show like that to the scouts.”

But Villanueva hasn’t struck out, he’s got a new gameplay. A life of service, giving back to his country, to his town. Joining the Marines later this summer. 

“Whatever God brings me, that’s the way it’s going to go I guess,” Villanueva said. “I am pretty happy about that.”

Village leaders like Quick say there is another idea in the works to hopefully plan a county wide senior baseball game later this summer for student athletes who were unable to hit the diamond this spring. They hope to invite scouts and potentially give athletes like Villanueva a chance to be seen. 

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