By Tom Tolen /

A group of Brighton High School parents and school district supporters had a big surprise for Principal Gavin Johnson Wednesday.

About a dozen of them, along with Janice Winters Buckley and her JV cheerleading squad, greeted Johnson at the high school bearing gifts. The gifts were presented to Johnson for what they called his “tireless work this past spring and summer in putting together the seniors’ graduation program, in spite of all the obstacles posed by the coronavirus pandemic.”

The modified commencement ceremonies, which took place on Aug. 1st, were held at the high school football field. Socially-distanced students wore cap and gown and were presented their diplomas on a makeshift stage, while parents and guardians were seated in the bleacher area. The graduates were allowed to remove their face masks when presented their diplomas for the purpose of taking photographs.

Afterward, graduating students and parents were unanimous in expressing their gratitude to Johnson and his staff for making it possible, while still following the rules imposed because of the COVID-19 crisis. Johnson, who is an avid mountain bike enthusiast, was presented with a gift certificate to purchase a new bicycle from a local bicycle shop. In addition, John O’Malley, president of St. Joseph Mercy Livingston, was on hand.

A check for $1,300 was presented to the hospital on Johnson’s behalf. The contribution will go toward cancer research and programs at the St. Joseph Mercy Brighton Cancer Center on West Grand River in Genoa Twp. Buckley and Brighton Board of Education Trustee Ken Stahl said that Johnson was genuinely moved by the presentation and deeply appreciative. Stahl helped the group organize the event and arranged to have it presented live on Zoom. For his part, Johnson told those in attendance that he didn’t deserve the credit and that it took many people working together to successfully stage the graduation event.