When six young employees at Sprouts in Valencia were called into work early one day last week, they thought their shift would be like any other — until they heard “Pomp and Circumstance” play storewide.
That’s when the workers, three college students and three from high school set to graduate this year, knew something was up. Their families and coworkers were all in on it, too.
“In these times, with what’s going on with everything, everybody’s lives are just sort of different right now. To see that our graduates don’t really get to celebrate an important milestone in their lives is sad so I wanted to help make it possible for them in a safe manner,” said Store Manager Eric Sustin.
Adjacent to the bread aisle and near the cash registers, Sustin and the Sprouts team set up a mock graduation ceremony, complete with a small stage, podium for speeches and large, gold 2020 balloons.
Safety measures were not missed, either, as the graduates donned face coverings and gloves with their graduation gowns and marched down the stage and their seats at a distance from each other.
“We called the kids at 9 a.m. and we told them that they were going to be working. We turned the music off in the store and the PA system off and then I just started playing the graduation march song and called all my employees over,” said Sustin.
“It was like a 15- to 20-minute stoppage in time to really focus on the kids that were graduating. I feel that everybody understood that we were really at this time in life right now with everything going on. And as difficult as it is to see with people all wearing masks, I don’t think there was a parent that wasn’t tearing up,” he said, adding that the graduates thanked him for the ceremony.
Among the graduates was Alexa Spitzer, 17.
“Yesterday was an incredible day. None of us were expecting any sort of mini graduation or celebration but I know all of us were so happy to have something to symbolize what we accomplished this year,” she said.