Every year in the United States, approximately 7.2 million students will graduate from either high school or college. However, this year those 7 million students won’t have the celebratory opportunity afforded to those before and after them.
There will be no graduation ceremony this May or June. No students tossing their mortarboards soaring into the air, no cheers from family and friends, no handshakes and handing over diplomas and much more.
Instead, May and June will be spent with these students stuck at home under strict quarantine rules that prevent any large gatherings, let alone one with as many people as a graduation ceremony.
While this future may seem grim, there is hope for these students to have some sort of commemorating experience. Through either the work of schools or the students themselves, many alternatives have been proposed for how to deal with graduations in the age of Coronavirus.
Some schools are determined to still have an in-person ceremony to celebrate the academic achievements of their students. Schools such as the University of Michigan, Georgetown, and Dartmouth have all postponed their graduation ceremonies to a future date.
In the case of Dartmouth, their postponed commencement will be a year away, during the summer of 2021. Colleges hope that having the ceremony, while later than usual, will give students the full college experience they worked so hard to achieve and allow their families to fully celebrate what they’ve accomplished.
Some students still hope to experience graduation on the day of their ceremony this year. Colleges such as the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, and Virginia Tech have all announced they will be hosting online graduations for their students.
While the colleges themselves haven’t made official announcements yet on what online graduation may look like, one school in Japan held a virtual graduation featuring student’s faces on robots as they walked over (or rolled on wheels) to be handed their diplomas.
Business Breakthrough University (BBT) in japan held an online graduation ceremony for robots this year through robots.#COVIDー19
— KNIN カニン, タイじんです。???????? (@kninsama) April 2, 2020
#virtualdefense ➡️ #virtualgraduation (yes I did put on make up and set up a fan just for that) pic.twitter.com/u2phMNxSUk
— DrFiona_master_of_time_and_space (she/her) (@fiona_chembot) April 8, 2020
Additionally, two students from Boston University have taken it upon themselves to host their own virtual graduations for hundreds of kids.
Members of Quaranteen Univesity will be able to participate in an online graduation ceremony through the video game Minecraft. These two students along with countless others who have since joined in to help are in the process of building a Minecraft world where all the students and parents can log on and participate in an online ceremony.
The date of the graduation is currently set for May 22nd and each student will be wearing in-game cosmetics with the colors of their school and will also have their name read out in the game’s chat. The entire experience will be live-streamed at https://twitch.tv/quaranteenu and is free for anyone who wants to attend.
Right now, anyone can log onto their server through the game, and explore their recreation of the entire Boston University campus, much like a few other students have recently done with their own schools.
You can learn more and sign up to partake in the ceremony on their website.
In addition to the work schools are doing with either postponing or virtual graduations, many schools are sending their students a “care package.” Inside these boxes will typically be their diploma, a grad program, alumni pin, and other goodies to be determined.
Michelle Blevins Stepp, an Associate Director of Alumni Relations at Middle Tennessee State University also mentioned that their baskets would include a cap and special tassels for the graduates.
While there are many ways for schools to still honor their students, sometimes it simply doesn’t work out that way. Many prominent schools such as Columbia, Yale, and Stanford have been forced to cancel commencement ceremonies completely, without a clear plan of if and how their students will have graduations of any sort.
Although this choice is the least optimal, each school promised they would find some way to observe the special occasions, but were unable to give more information at this time.
Celebrating High School Seniors
For high schools, rescheduling their graduation ceremonies is slightly easier as nearly all students will be back home eventually. However, many parents in their communities still are looking for ways to celebrate on graduation day in June.
One plan in a small town in Montana is to have a car parade with the seniors where all the students can drive down the town’s main street while still being safe. In line with staying in cars, another school plans to hold a drive-in theater ceremony for its students.
Some photographers are offering to take graduation portraits on the porches of student’s homes. Others are decorating their front doors and lawns with signs for the students on their street.
If you cannot get to the graduation, why not bring the graduation to the student? This family went above and beyond for their grad-to-be and recreated an entire stage for her to walk across. It was complete with school colors and the appropriate “officials” who presented her with her diploma.
As many parents and schools go to great lengths to provide a celebration for their seniors, this high school can only be described as going to “great heights,” orchestrating the ceremony at the top of a mountain, reached by ski lift.
Commencement speeches did not fall to the wayside either, as many students recorded theirs, like this grad-to-be from The New School.
Every school is hoping to make the best of a tough situation, but with the cooperation of students and parents alike, we will all get through these trying times and come out on the other side stronger, better, and hopefully with a diploma in hand.
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