Graduation amidst pandemic

How first generation graduating seniors are celebrating in times of COVID-19

Tori McArthur, Staff Reporter

Around the nation, college commencements have shifted to online formats, halting traditional celebrations and recognitions. 

For first generation students around campus, these cancellations have had significant impacts on their accomplishment of graduating from college as the first in their family. 

“We are so very sorry, as we know this is an enormous loss to each of you, as well as your loved ones, wrote the SPU High Events team. “We know you have worked very hard to get to where you are, and that this is not what you had pictured for your graduation,”

Platforms like Youtube and NBC News have started virtual campaigns to celebrate graduates by inviting speakers, including Barack Obama, to give accolades to students around the globe. 

Ivy cutting, a 98 year old tradition at SPU will experience its first cancellation due to COVID-19 concerns for graduates and guests. The class of 2020 will not experience the thrill of walking across the stage in the Alaska Airlines stadium in front of hundreds of friends, family, and faculty. 

These virtual ceremonies are scheduled for Jun. 15, where student’s families and friends can join online and celebrate graduates.

This year’s graduating class has experienced several unique incidents in their last years at SPU including a fallen tree, a warehouse fire and now the cancellation of commencement and an online spring quarter. 

In the beginning when I got the news about a virtual commencement ceremony, I was upset and hurt because I felt like all of my hard work and determination throughout my four years in college was not going to be recognized the way I have been dreaming,” wrote Jesselyn Cruz, an education major and first generation student from Guam, in an email interview.

These dreams of celebrating in person unfortunately did not come true and Cruz and others have shifted to another way to celebrate a huge achievement in the academic realm. 

For Zoe Clark, a communications major, canceled commencement has had some perks. 

“It worked out great that more of my loved ones will get to be with me than the eight tickets I would have been allowed in person,” Clark said in an email interview. 

Clark’s residence in a small county in Washington has allowed for bigger gatherings in times of social distancing. For others, in-person celebrations with family have moved to online formats in adherence to health guidelines.  

“I was supposed to have a graduation party and potentially go back to Guam to celebrate with all of my extended family but now I will be celebrating with them virtually. I will be celebrating physically with my mom and dad and my two little sisters at home,” wrote Cruz. 

To celebrate the commencement of graduates, SPU sent graduation boxes to the residences of graduates including fake ivy, cords, confetti and other regalia. In addition to these items, first generation graduates received a first generation pin to be placed on gowns. 

These small gifts had intentions of giving graduates a similar experience to in person ceremonies. 

COVID-19 has canceled a lot of things for students around the nation but, celebrations are still in order and graduates are entering a new stage of life. 

“Seattle Pacific University is proud to be an institution that provides excellent educational opportunities and support for first-generation students,” wrote SPU President Dan Martin on the SPU website. “We are excited to celebrate the immense contributions that first-generation college students have made, and continue to make, in the SPU community.”