Graduations Go Virtual
It’s graduation season, and though they might look a lot different than what we’re used to, commencement ceremonies and celebrations across the country are still happening to honor our deserving new 8th grade, high school, and college graduates. Instead of sitting under a tent in a hot robe for hours, graduates and their families are bringing the celebration to the comfort of their couches, complete with speeches from their favorite celebrities recorded just for them, and finding creative ways to keep the graduation spirit going from the safety of their homes.
Holding on to Hope
While in-person ceremonies are cancelled, many Jersey City schools are joining in on schools nationwide transitioning graduations online the best they can and in creative ways to still capture the spirit of the day. One of these schools, Dr. Michael Conti School PS 5, is doing everything they can to make the end of the year special for their 8th grade graduating class moving up to highschool.
“It’s been very, very hard for the middle school students, especially the 8th graders because they’re at a tough age and the quarantine has not been easy on them. They thrive on social connection, so we’ve been doing our best to connect with them every day via Zoom and Google Classroom, but it’s been a challenge,” said John Rivero, Principal of PS 5. “This is a milestone. For these kids, graduation is important and what they look forward to. They’re missing out, so we’re trying to do our best to celebrate.”
The virtual graduation will try to stick to the script of a “normal” graduation and include speeches from teachers and students, the National Anthem sung by the music teacher, and both official graduation and candid photos of the graduating class cycling on screen. Once the pre-recorded ceremony is live on YouTube on June 17th, the official last day of school, families will be encouraged to join a watch party to celebrate together in real-time.
New Jersey City University (NJCU), also, will have a live celebration on June 5th from 10 a.m. to noon with pre-taped videos, leadership awards, and pictures of each student with a name card indicating their degree. There will be a live chat also available to comment and send cheers and well wishes as the ceremony streams.
The possibility of an in-person ceremony at later dates has not been ruled out by many schools, nor Governor Murphy, who Monday morning said in-person ceremonies are not to be dismissed completely, although when is still up in the air.
“They should hold out hope,” said Murphy. “I have that same hope. I’ve got nothing to report, but I have that same hope.”
Around Jersey City, schools are still holding on to that hope, including NJCU, who say they hope to hold another celebration together once it is safe, and Hudson County Community College, who plans to have a belated ceremony on December 10 at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark.
COVID Can’t Rain on Our Parade
Despite the circumstances, school and students are still finding ways to connect. Rev. Dr. Ercel F. Webb Elementary School, PS 22 brought out a caravan of teachers with a police escort as they drove up and down the streets honking and waving around Communipaw Ave. in Bergen-Lafayette last Tuesday morning. Their cars featured paper signs of hearts and “PS 22 misses you!” as their students gathered on their stoops eager to see their beloved teachers again at a safe distance.
We might not be able to have all-night backyard graduation ragers, but we can still say it loud and proud that there’s a new graduate in the house. Not wanting to miss out on sharing their special days with the world, graduates are improvising and taking photos of their grad gown getup and doing their own diploma walks and cap throws to share on social.
Around our neighborhoods and neighboring cities, we’re already seeing and hearing people celebrating with car and social-distance walking parades in front of houses with music, cheering, balloons, and signs of congratulations from family members, neighbors, and friends making sure their high school and college grads know they’re seen and loved.
How are your family, or friends celebrating Jersey City’s new graduates? Show us by tagging @everythingjerseycity or use #everythingjerseycity to “brag your grad” with their best walk, cap design, and awesome accomplishments!
Choose Your Own Commencement Speech Adventure
One benefit to celebrating commencement at home is that graduates have their pick of just about anyone for their speakers. This year, celebrities and inspirational figures are jumping at the chance to record a message for the 2020 graduates to give them some encouragement while celebrating their accomplishments from the past year. Now anyone can have the Obama’s at their commencement or get serenaded by Alicia Keys as she dedicates a song to you and your future. Just click and sit back in the comfort of your own home instead of sweating under a tent as Bill Gates tells you how great you are, graduate. You can even check out other college’s live streams for their commencement speakers and root on friends and family in spirit no matter where they went to school.
Here is a list of some of the recorded commencement speeches to watch to honor our newest graduates:
- Obama’s Virtual Commencement Speech to Class Of 2020: This Is Your Generation’s World To Shape.
- Graduate Together 2020, hosted by LeBron James, with Kevin Hart, Dua Lipa, Alicia Keys, Bad Bunny, and many more sharing songs, performances, and stories.
- Facebook & Instagram Celebrate the Class of 2020, hosted by Oprah Winfrey, plus Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Hugh Jackman, Cardi B and more.
- Show Me Your Walk HBCU Edition, a virtual commencement celebrating the graduating class of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
- Natural Light hosted a celebrity commencement event, Natty’s Worldwide Commencement, hosted by Amanda Cerny, with speeches and performances by Adam DeVine, Jane Lynch, Ludacris, Mark Cuban, Dashboard Confessional, Machine Gun Kelly, and more.
- iHeart Radio partnered with 50+ of some of the biggest names across industries to record encouraging messages to the class of 2020 in their podcast, Commencement: Speeches For The Class of 2020, including John Legend, Bill and Melinda Gates, DJ Kahlid, David Chang, Mary J Blige, Kesha, and more.
- Tom Hanks delivered Wright State University’s commencement speech.
- Coming May 27, 1:00 p.m.: John Waters delivers School of Visual Arts’ commencement address streaming on Facebook.
- Coming June 6, 3:00 p.m.: Live on YouTube, stream Dear Class of 2020, a virtual commencement celebration bringing together inspirational leaders, celebrities, and YouTube creators, including Michelle Obama, BTS, Lady Gaga, Zendaya, Malala Yousafzai, and special surprise guests.