Eight students were celebrated in a different kind of graduation Thursday afternoon.
They're staff members at the Telford YMCA, and they were invited to the gym under the pretense their photos would be taken. They were told to bring their graduation robes and hats from their schools.
While they did have their photos taken by YMCA membership director Olivia Hatter, what they didn't expect was their family members and friends driving by with signs and balloons to celebrate the graduating seniors — Abby Purvis, Titus Haskins, Madison Rhodus, Bobby Vasquez, Aspen Glover, Jayden Barrett, Hayden Beach and Lance Cruse.
"Some of them have been coming here since they were little kids for swimming," said Chelsea Whitson, child care director. "They've all been working here since age 15 or 16."
It made the day extra special for her to see them in their robes, and to surprise them with the surprise graduation parade led by the Richmond Police Department.
Hatter helped them pose, took photos of them with their tassels on the right, then moved them to the left and took more photos.
"It's weird, I guess," Beach said before the surprise parade. "It's not how I was expecting it to end."
After the parade, the seniors were surprised again when several young YMCA members they worked with ran down the sidewalk to congratulate them.
Reach Sara Kuhl at 624-6626; follow her on Twitter @saraekuhl.