ST. GEORGE — Graduation ceremonies are traditionally met with hugs and handshakes, high-fives and innumerable attempts to snap a group photo where no one is blinking. This year, due to social distancing guidelines, in-person ceremonies are not possible for many high school graduates across America.
For Washington County School District grads, seniors walked one-by-one across their school stages in front of mostly empty auditoriums.
When Desert Hills High School graduate Mayson Sersansie, 18, found out that they were doing virtual graduations, she said she was dreading it and wasn’t at all excited.
The operation for recordings was dialed to a very specific orchestration. Cars would pull up in the school’s back parking lot, where a few faculty members in face masks would put a number on the windshield. Then they would proceed forward, park and wait for someone to come get them.
Sersansie told St. George News the process was very quick and that they only waited about two minutes for someone to come get them.
“I was already in my cap and gown ready for graduation – with all my lays on and everything – and they walked us through this archway of balloons they made,” she said. “They made us feel really special. They had posters with our names on it and notes from our teachers on this big poster.”
They walked inside the building and through the auditorium.
Students were only allowed, she said, but there was also the vice principal, principal and about seven to 10 other people spread out in the auditorium cheering them through.
Walking across the stage, Sersansie said she got teary eyed when she saw her vice principal.
“Me and my vice principal are like best buddies, like I’d always see him and give him knuckles,” she said. “I wasn’t emotional at all until he screamed. He was like, ‘Yeah, Mayson,’ like so excited. And I got teary eyed because I love my school. I got sad and then I got happy. It was tears of joy like I was grateful that they were doing this.”
After walking off stage, she was stopped in the hallway and another photo was taken with her tassel on the other side. Compared to her feelings before the graduation, she said she was surprised with how much she enjoyed it.
While still hopeful for a traditional ceremony in a couple weeks, she said, “the graduation we had was so awesome for what it was that I do feel complete, and it will be OK if that’s it.”
Nora Price, 18, told St. George News that for her, the ending of her senior year at Pine View High School and participating in the virtual graduation caused a stir of emotions.
“I’m excited about the future and moving on, but I also kind of hate that we missed a big part of it like prom and a graduation, actually getting to walk across stage with everyone there.”
She said she was most excited to watch her friends walk across stage before her.
“Their last names are before P, and so I was excited to see them all walk across stage. We were all going to do silly things,” she said. “But we can’t really do that now.”
The greatest loss for Price was not having more of her family there to watch her graduate. Price only had her mom there because she said her dad had to work.
As she walked across stage in front of a mostly empty auditorium, Price said she was thinking, “‘Wow, nobody’s here.’ It felt kind of lonely.”
And now that everything is all over, she said she feels disappointed and without a sense of completion.
“I’m feeling stuck, like waiting for something to happen, but it’s already happened, but it doesn’t feel like it.”
Price said while she appreciates the significance of being a part of the first class having virtual graduations, she hopes no one else ever has to go through this.
“For me at least, growing up I was always thinking about graduation, that big milestone that I was going to hit. And I guess I did get to it, but it wasn’t like what I was expecting,” she said.
Walking outside after the virtual graduation, Price said she felt awkward.
“My mom was crying, and I wasn’t, so I felt like I should be, but the emotion just wasn’t there.”
Despite her mixed emotions, she said this experience hasn’t changed her outlook on education or the trajectory of her future. She plans to attend Utah State University in the fall and said she is looking forward to – hopefully – having a traditional ceremony then.
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