Graduation 2020: Memorable from a distance

Graduation in 2020 is going to be memorable – no matter what format

Everyone wants their high school graduation to be memorable. The graduates of 2020 won’t have any problem with that.

Schools and school districts are looking at creative ways to celebrate the high school Class of 2020, hoping to ensure the rite of passage is recognized while keeping social distancing guidelines in mind amid the coronavirus outbreak.

TCU Stadium was bathed in purple on May 9.

Others are delaying the pomp and circumstance for weeks and even months so that seniors may be able to move their tassels in as close to a traditional ceremony as possible.

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And – as with all things during this pandemic – things remain in flux. Graduation ceremonies for the Arlington Independent School District, originally scheduled for the University of Texas at Arlington’s College Park Center, on May 13 moved to the flashy AT&T Stadium, thanks to the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Arlington Youth Foundation.
The school district said the plans changed after the Texas Education Agency (TEA) said that graduation ceremonies could not be held indoors.
The district said in a news release that it immediately began working on a new graduation strategy with Charlotte Jones, executive vice president and chief brand officer, Dallas Cowboys.

Alex Nelson, All Saints’ 2020 graduate

“They offered the prestigious AT&T Stadium as a host site to Arlington ISD students and parents. The stadium’s convertible roof makes the facility an outdoor venue that meets TEA guidelines,” the district said in a news release.
“We are humbled and grateful to the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Arlington Youth Foundation and Charlotte Jones for their extraordinary expression of generosity,” said Marcelo Cavazos, superintendent of the Arlington ISD.

“For our more than 4,000 seniors at seven high schools we know that being able to graduate in a beautiful location with their classmates and families present will be more meaningful than ever,” Cavazos said.
“High school graduation is one of the most significant moments of a young person’s life,” Charlotte Jones said in the news release. “It is also very meaningful for the parents of all of the students who are reaching this milestone.

“We are so very proud to be able to, in our own way, help to make this event as special as it can possibly be in these most difficult of times.” Jones said.
“This is a classic example of the Arlington way,” said Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams. “When a problem presents itself, our community works together and figures out a way to solve it. Our graduating seniors deserve to be celebrated and thanks to the creative thinking of the Dallas Cowboys and AISD, these seniors will get a graduation they’ll never forget.”

In Fort Worth, the school district is preparing to celebrate the Class of 2020 with virtual graduations on Saturday, June 20.  The following week students may also choose to participate in outdoor ‘in-person’ celebrations, following recently issued TEA guidelines for such ceremonies.

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“After speaking last week with student leaders, we decided to add the option of an additional celebration,” said Superintendent Kent P. Scribner. “This second event will follow newly-released TEA directives and social distancing protocols for these outdoor celebrations.”

Almost 5,000 seniors are expected to participate in the online ceremonies; the outdoor events are totally voluntary and will have limited audience members.

The outdoor celebrations will also be contingent on public health conditions and will take place at either Farrington Field or Clark Stadium, the District’s two largest outdoor athletic venues from June 23-26.  The District will follow CDC guidelines for social distancing.

“When I met with the student leaders via Zoom last week, I was impressed with their maturity and their understanding of the complex situation we all now face,” Scribner said. “Their commitment to doing the right thing for everyone was impressive. We were determined to find a way to do something safely and Commissioner Morath’s new guidelines allow us to do so.”

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Texas Christian University has postponed its spring commencement until Aug. 8, but has celebrated the Class of 2020 graduates in mid-May since commencement would have been May 9.

TCU faculty showed graduates in their colleges how proud they were of them by making videos to congratulate them.

To celebrate graduation each year TCU’s Student Development Services has invited seniors to Amon G. Carter to watch the sunrise on their very last day of class since 2017. Since seniors weren’t on campus for this meaningful tradition this spring, TCU filmed it for them.

TCU Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. handsigning diplomas. courtesy photo

In keeping with a longstanding TCU tradition, Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr. is hand signing each one of the 2,000+ diplomas that will be mailed to the spring graduates in the Class of 2020. Boschini has signed every diploma since his first commencement at TCU in December 2003, but the personal touch is especially poignant this year.

On the evening of May 9, TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium was be aglow in a special purple light as a tribute to the Class of 2020.

So, what is a virtual graduation?

Grant Brooks, Trinity Valley School 2020 graduate

It is an online streaming event that highlights each individual graduate. Technology will allow students to share photos of themselves in cap and gown – as well a personalized video message as they “move the tassel” to indicate their status as newly-minted graduates.

A link to a special online platform will enable an unlimited number of family and friends to participate from any location.  This process provides each new graduate their individual #MoveTheTassel moment with a personalized video file to share with loved ones on social media. 

“We believe the decision to have virtual graduation ceremonies is in the best interest of everyone involved,” said Scribner. “Then, if conditions allow, the in-person event will give our seniors the option of a second celebration where they can see each other and capture another memory.”

Meanwhile, Denton area schools are doing graduation at Texas Motor Speedway where there is plenty of room for social distancing.

Hannah Roff of All Saints’

However, the school celebrates, the new trend is a yard sign to celebrate those graduates.

“Our teachers and administrators delivered signs to each student from a socially-safe distance and gave words of encouragement to each senior,” said Margaret Kramer, director of advancement at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth.

  • FWBP Staff