Graduation season falls victim to coronavirus pandemic

In the midst of a pandemic, the coveted walk across the stage will likely not happen, or at best, be delayed for many graduates.

Graduates participate in Howard University’s 146th commencement exercises on May 10, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Honored at the convocation were entrepreneur and philanthropist Sean “Diddy” Combs, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, Chairman and CEO of PespiCo Indra K. Nooyi, professor of surgery Dr. Clive Callender, and jazz legend Benny Golson. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images for DKC)

As the coronavirus grew from a viral epidemic to a fully-fledged pandemic, life’s biggest events from weddings and graduations are now canceled to avoid its spread. 

Students ranging in age from high school seniors to first-generation college graduates will have earned their diplomas and degrees, however, the coveted walk across the stage will no longer seal the deal on their experience. 

“If I’m being honest, when they first said that they were going to cancel school for the next month, I was hype. I was ecstatic. I was elated,” high school senior Tochi Angel tells theGrio.

READ MORE: How HBCUs are handling the coronavirus pandemic

In the midst of a pandemic, the coveted walk across the stage will likely not happen, or at best, be delayed for many high school and college graduates. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Those sentiments likely echoed throughout student group chats until the realization hit that the coronavirus pandemic will cause more than 2nd period social studies to be canceled. 

Practicing social distancing means no gathering in large groups. Education institutions have taken precautionary steps including canceling classes, pivoting to digital classrooms, and closing campuses, dormitories, and in-person activities. 

The news of canceled sports tournaments suspended campus events, and eventually canceled graduations, were met with understandable ill-feelings from students who have waited years for their moment. 

“Initially, I truly wanted to blame my school. I was upset. I was like, Clark is going against everything that it stands for,” says Jalinne Mendez, a senior at Clark-Atlanta University.

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“[Clark University] talks about find a way or make one, but you guys aren’t finding anything,” she continues. “But, after doing some research, and getting a better understanding [of] this whole entire pandemic that we’re going through, I understand that there’s nothing to blame but this virus.”

Still, some hold out hope that canceled graduation ceremonies will instead be temporarily postponed.

Mendez says she and her family will not cancel celebrating her accomplishments and she plans to wear a traditional graduation cap, decorated with the phrase, “I found a way, and I made one” in reference to one of CAU’s official mottos, “I’ll Find a Way or Make One.”

Some administrations hope to potentially give the class of 2020 their time on stage. Dr. Wayne. A.I. Frederick, president of Howard University, proposed whether to schedule a new date later in the year, hoping the pandemic will deescalate. 

“What can we do to replace that ceremony? Do we do it at another date at another time, late in the summer or the fall? Even in the winter?” questions Dr. Frederick. 

Check out theGrio’s video above to see what else students had to say on the cancelation of graduations.

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