Lincroft, NJ  – Rodney Wotton Jr. faced adversity before he was even born when his father died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks just days before his birth.

Today, like thousands of other high school seniors, he is challenged again.

This time, because of the coronavirus pandemic, he is preparing to graduate from Christian Brothers Academy in the Lincroft section of Middletown without a prom, commencement ceremony and, perhaps most importantly, the traditional CBA bagpiper send-off.

“There is a tradition that Brother Frank (Byrne), the school president, leads the seniors out of school on their last day with a bagpipe band,” Rodney’s mother, Pat, said in an interview. “It distinguishes the boys from the other classmates, and it is a loud celebration, an unusual celebration.”

In an attempt to rectify the situation a bit, Pat Wotton surprised her son with a bagpiper on their front lawn Tuesday, the last day of classes for CBA seniors who’ve been learning remotely since mid-March.

“She led me outside and that is when I pieced it together,” Rodney said minutes after the afternoon surprise outside of their Hance Road home. “A bunch of people, family and friends, were there. I was embarrassed, but it was nice.”

With plans to attend Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken next fall, Rodney had looked forward to the CBA senior traditions for all four years at the campus, especially the pipers.

“The seniors will get out of class and meet up, and they go through the halls, through the whole school, and there are bagpipes and the seniors having a good time,” he said. “I got to witness it and it was fun to look forward to it.”

Pat Wotton thought ending the school year at home with no acknowledgment was not proper.

“I wanted to have a kind of ceremony for him,” she said. “They are not having the prom, and they had a bunch of friends who had booked a place in Seaside for after the prom, and that’s not going to happen. It is difficult because he is a teenage boy. He wants to go out, he wants to see his friends. It is hard for all of the kids.”

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