Class of 2020 Graduates with a Mix of Socially Distant and Virtual Festivities

by Arshia Verma, News Reporter & Preethika Vemula, News Editor
Photo Illustration by Kaila Hanna

The graduation committee, a group of parents, faculty and students, developed new plans to celebrate the class of 2020’s graduation due to the coronavirus pandemic, which made a regular, in-person graduation impossible for the time being.

The graduation festivities included three parts: a drive-through ceremony on June 7, a prerecorded video of the graduation on June 11 and a possible in-person ceremony in the summer of 2020, English teacher Julie Stonehill, a member of the graduation committee, said.

The drive-through ceremony, called a “Celebration Lane,” featured teachers, administrators, community members and other well-wishers cheering on the sides of Brandeis Road while seniors drove, walked or biked. Many seniors decorated their vehicles.

Stonehill said that various safety precautions were implemented for the ceremony.

“Brandeis Road was one way. Students were not allowed to drive their own cars unless they had specific permission from their dean,” she said. “We didn’t want seniors to be driving, waving and beeping. We asked people to wear masks [and] to socially distance as they were lining the street.”

The second part of the graduation was a prerecorded video, featuring a five-second photo or video of each senior that played when their name was called, senior Katelyn Hatem, a class officer and member of the graduation committee, said.

In the week leading up to virtual graduation, seniors who had previously ordered caps and gowns picked them up at school, said senior Adalia Rodriguez, a member of the graduation committee.

Special education teacher and member of the graduation committee Ted Dalicandro said that the committee tried to make the virtual graduation resemble a regular one.

“We were trying to keep it as lifelike as possible in terms of the natural flow of graduation. [It] started with the national anthem, the speech, the principal talked and [other] dignitaries spoke,” he said.

Senior Laura Braudis, the commencement speaker, said she would prefer an in-person ceremony but made the best of the imperfect situation.

“I wish [I were] speaking in front of people face-to-face for one last time,” she said.

Hatem said she appreciated the virtual graduation and drive-through.

“With everything going on we’re lucky to have this online graduation and the parade,” she said. “We’re getting some sort of closure. It might not be what we wanted, but it’s nice to have a lot of people supporting us.”

Stonehill said that there may be an outdoor graduation to hand out diplomas, if  social distancing restrictions allow that to happen. 

“Governor Baker said that after July 18, high schools or colleges can try to plan [an] outdoor graduation,” she said. “Depending on if that is still true in July, we will be planning some sort of outdoor graduation. We don’t know what that will look like yet.” 

Rodriguez said she hopes that the administration can hold an in-person graduation.

“For me and a lot of people, walking across that stage is a symbolism of ‘you did it’ and all 12 to 13 years to get educated is done,” she said.

Dalicandro said that seniors would pick up their diplomas from school, if an in-person celebration does not occur.

“We are working on a plan that involves a ‘drive-by’ for seniors to pick them up at a safe distance,” he said. “The hardest part is that this is not a school-wide decision. We are not just dealing with the administration, parents and teachers but with the public health department [and] the Mayor.”

Student life coordinator Tori Parker said that the graduation ceremonies serve to return some semblance of normalcy for the class of 2020.“I’m in support of anything we can do for our seniors to feel back together,” Parker said. “We’ll hopefully be having an in-person graduation in July, but I think this is a great start to recognizing our senior class and the insanity of the year.”