Thousands of students have been waiting for this day, a day considered one of the biggest of their lives, yet, they won’t ever get to know the true feeling of walking across a stage and receiving their diploma or degree.
Yes, we are talking about all the students who don’t get to participate in graduation related activities, proms, senior night as athletes, and much more because of the coronavirus.
I will never forget the feeling I had as I walked across the stage at Winthrop Coliseum in Rock Hill, South Carolina to get my Bachelor of Art’s degree in Broadcasting. I was proud. I felt accomplished. It was a huge relief to know the days of getting up early for softball workouts, the hundreds of hours spent in the classroom, the long nights of studying for exams or finishing research papers, were officially over. It was bittersweet. I knew my fast pitch softball days were over but I was ready to start my career. I was very fortunate to have landed a job at WCCB Charlotte’s CW a week before I even walked across the stage.
I felt like I was on top of the world in that short walk from one side of the stage to the other, with my numerous family members and friends cheering me on as the announcer said: Caryn Little – Broadcasting. A chapter just closed and many new chapters were in front me. But I got to officially close my chapter. I wrote the end of that story.
However, many 2020 graduates all across the country will never get to experience that moment. They will never get to toss their cap high in the air, literally with no care in the world, even if it was only for those few seconds. All the hard work had paid off.
After reminiscing on that magical day, it made me want to know how it feels to be a 2020 graduate. I wanted to know what graduates were thinking right now. So I reached out to Alex Jackson. He is a 2020 graduate of the UNC Charlotte.
I sent Alex an email with a list of questions knowing that it would be difficult to read the answers as I know he had to be disappointed that his final year of college was not ending how he expected. He really took a lot of time and thoroughly answered the questions so I want you to read them just as I did:
1. How does it feel to know that you worked so hard for so long to finally reach this goal but now you can’t participate in graduation ceremonies or parties?
It is definitely super disappointing. The senior traditions of the spring semester have always seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel and the cherry on top of everyone’s undergraduate career and having that taken away certainly made graduation feel more anticlimactic. However, that hasn’t stopped me from celebrating with my friends and family while following CDC guidelines. I think we’ve all made the best of it and I think we are lucky to live in an age where everyone is well versed in digital forms of communication.
2. What were your thoughts when you found out that classes were getting moved completely online and that there was a possibility that you wouldn’t be able to walk in graduation?
I think initially I was shocked, but thankful that my college was taking necessary precautions to keep as many people as safe as possible. That being said, the realization that I had already experienced my last class in an academic building and would not really have the opportunity to say proper goodbyes to my professors and peers was really strange. Graduation, especially, is a really symbolic time to be with friends and faculty one last time to celebrate our accomplishments together. Without that, it is hard to accept the fact that I have graduated. Obviously, I was excited to turn in my final assignments, take my final exams, and see my final grades updated on my transcript, but a part of me still feels like it isn’t over. It feels like I should be planning my schedule for next semester, not preparing for my first full-time job.
3. What would you say to other graduates who are in the same boat as you?
These times are unprecedented and some people may not understand the way you are feeling right now as you have had your final semester of senior year taken away from you. It is completely okay to feel a little upset right now. Honor your feelings because they are valid. No matter what, this last hectic semester does not define your entire college experience. You may not have your ceremony, but you still have years worth of fond memories and the infinite lessons you learned along the way which not even a global pandemic can take away from you. Graduation is a momentous accomplishment and you are worthy of self-celebration.
4. If you could change anything about how the school is handling the coronavirus, what would it be?
I know that coronavirus and subsequent closings have affected a lot of students financially and I commend the schools who incorporated some sort of tuition reimbursement or additional aid to students who need it during this time into their coronavirus procedures. I supported my school’s decision to move classes online, but many students depended on their campus-adjacent jobs to pay rent, so I would have liked to see more initiative on my school’s part to make sure students were taken care of financially this semester.
5. Do you think schools should have ceremonies once things go back to some type of normalcy, even if it’s in 2021?
Absolutely, our class deserves a ceremony as much as any other and I think having a ceremony at a later date would allow students, including myself, to receive the closure they are lacking right now.
6. Is there anything you want to add?
College is absolutely a privilege that is not afforded to all. So despite my disappointment over the way it ended, I am thankful I had the opportunity to graduate at all. My heart goes out to essential workers in both the healthcare and the food industries as well as those who have lost work during this time, whose lives have certainly been more affected than my own by this crisis. I think their voices are important ones that need more attention at this moment.
WCCB Charlotte’s CW is offering a way for you to show your support for local graduates. Click HERE to submit your shout-out and we will post it on our website.
Author: Caryn Little