Students re-create school stadium on Minecraft for graduation

The Four Percent


As Chambersburg Area School District in Pennsylvannia kept delaying the return of students this spring, the inevitability began to set in.

No more sports. No more prom. And, likely, no more graduation ceremony.

This was something Chambersburg Magnet School rising junior Everyn Kenney noticed, and despite not personally missing out on a commencement at Trojan Stadium, he decided to find a way to help out those who were.

So after some joking about the idea at first, Kenney turned to a game he’s played for years: Minecraft.

A sneak preview of the virtual Chambersburg Area Senior High School constructed on Minecraft by Everyn Kenney and company. (Photo: Everyn Kenney)

Using the block-by-block multiplayer cooperative game, as well as some home-brewed coding, Kenney and his crew of nine friends set out to build a virtual, to-scale Trojan Stadium on Minecraft, and set up a virtual commencement for June 25 that graduates can attend either as a game character or watch on Twitch, all the way down to virtual caps and gowns.

“I decided to just try putting it into my own hands because the school wasn’t really doing anything yet,” said Kenney, who is doing the project in conjunction with the school’s Video Game Club. “So I was like, ‘Well, if they do do actual graduation, it is going to be few months from now, so I might as well just do one now.'”

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Kenney began by gathering a crew, spearheaded by himself and coder Brayden Zimmerman. They started posting on his Instagram soliciting more help and letting Chambersburg students know what they were planning to build, creating official pages for the project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Twitch, and releasing teasers on YouTube.

Meeting up via group calls about five days a week, the students go, literally, brick-by-brick, re-creating Trojan Stadium to a T, with different people assigned different areas – CMS teacher and Video Game Club head Josh Bound jokingly lamented about his assignment of the parking lot.

He’s still impressed that a group of kids with no real attachment to this event would put in this type of work to make it happen.

“We know it’s a virtual thing. But the reality is they’ll give a kid a sense of, ‘Oh I can see what (graduation) would look like,” Bound said.

Beyond the building is the coding, which is led by Zimmerman, a longtime friend of Kenney and rising junior at Chambersburg Area Senior High School.

He says that the main objective of the created code is to create rules and restrictions for what people can and can’t do in the build, as well as ensure the actual event goes as smooth as possible. That includes everything from the displayed graduates names to actually making sure they can facilitate a large group.

“It’s honestly, I don’t how to really describe it,” Zimmerman said, adding that the project has helped him hone skills in Java coding. “I don’t know if surreal is the right word, but it’s surreal that something like this is happening, and something I’m doing and helping.”

The project remains on schedule for its June 25 date, with work getting kicked into overdrive to make what was an original idea from Kenney into a reality.

The reception has been strong as well, with over 300 people marking themselves as interested in attending and 200 RSVPing to attend on Facebook.

“I’m not really in charge of the social media, but I do look at it every once in a while and see people’s reactions,” Zimmerman said. “It’s just cool how many people are interested in it.”

Kenney says that if there’s one thing attendees and watchers get from this beyond the aesthetic pleasure of seeing a representation of a graduation in the middle of a pandemic, it’s that the power of video games goes far beyond setting a high score.

“Minecraft has always helped communities reach out to each other,” Kenney said. “And we’re reaching out to a huge amount of people and kind of uniting them together during a trying time.”

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