Like every school in New Mexico, Moriarty High is closed and its campus is deserted, but after sunset the football stadium lights up in honor of the seniors who are staying home during the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of a campaign called #BeTheLight, schools across the country are turning on the lights of their athletic fields to recognize their senior classes, brighten spirits, and promote solidarity in their communities.

The trend started last month after schools were closed and spring sports and other activities were cancelled. Propelled by social media, #BeTheLight caught on nationwide.

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Stadium lights at Moriarty High School are lit in honor of students. Photo by Ger Demarest.

Many high schools and even some universities are illuminating their fields a few nights a week or just one night a week. Some schools are lighting their fields on Fridays to capture the football-season essence of “Friday Night Lights.” Some are turning the lights on at 8:20 p.m.— 20:20 in military time—and keeping them lit for 20 minutes and 20 seconds to recognize the Class of 2020.

Todd Bibiano, Moriarty-Edgewood School District’s director of personnel, said he received a retweet in late March from a friend in El Paso about #BeTheLight.

“They’re lighting their fields as a symbol of hope,” Bibiano said. “It seemed like a great way to bring us together.”

Moriarty got on board a few weeks ago, and though its football stadium is silent and desolate, the field becomes luminous after dark with a symbolic light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel message for the Class of 2020.

“The lights are going to go on every weeknight for an hour until May 13 because that would’ve been graduation night,” Bibiano said, adding, “We’re lighting it as a beacon of hope to honor the kids, especially the Class of 2020.”

“I think it’s really neat, you know, knowing that we’re a part of something bigger than us,” said Moriarty’s athletic director Joe Anaya. “When Todd got the idea, I said, ‘Heck yeah, let’s do this.’”

Moriarty High School principal Rob Adams said the field lighting is a nice way to honor the seniors who are missing out on the activities and milestones they typically would have at this time in their lives.

“It’s a lifetime benchmark for everybody and they aren’t getting to experience it like they should be able to,” Adams said. “It’s “Be the Light,” that’s the theme, so this is our way of letting them know that we’re thinking about them, that we’re all the light of what was supposed to happen with them, and so, it’s our little tribute.”