Summerland Secondary School principal Alan Stel presented high school diplomas during a series of small ceremonies. A full video of the graduation events will be available on the Summerland Review website on June 26 in the evening. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)

COLUMN: Graduation during the time of COVID-19

This year, the traditional graduation ceremonies could not proceed

Graduation day is a milestone celebration for Grade 12 students.

It marks the completion of high school and more importantly, it is a rite of passage into the world of adulthood.

The formal ceremonies and the celebrations afterwards recognize this transition and honour the graduates.

It’s a significant achievement and as a result, it calls for a special time of celebration.

This year has been different.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional events could not proceed, but the students’ accomplishments still deserved to be recognized.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Summerland graduates receive diplomas

READ ALSO: Summerland school to present video of graduation ceremonies

Teachers at Summerland Secondary School and a committee of parents stepped up to make graduation as special and memorable as possible, despite the COVID-19 directives and limitations.

Gatherings of more than 50 are prohibited at present. This presents a challenge when the school has around 110 graduating students, and when each of those students have family members and friends who want to be present for the formal ceremony.

There was no way to hold a traditional graduation and still comply with the limitations on crowd sizes and the physical distancing directives.

Rather than trying to fight and petition to have an exception, the organizers of this year’s graduation chose to work within the parameters, even though this meant completely restructuring the ceremonies.

By doing so, they have demonstrated they were willing to try something new. They have also shown they were willing to make great efforts for the graduating students.

Graduation this year was not the same as in previous years.

In the past, it would be a large event at the arena, but this year, the ceremonies were held in the high school gym, with groups of seven students receiving their diplomas in a series of mini-ceremonies.

The complete graduation events, including the presentation of diplomas, the valedictorians’ speeches and the presentation of awards and bursaries, will be online on the evening of June 26. Visit summerlandreview.com to view the complete video.

The class picture of the graduates also had to be set up differently from in previous years.

Instead of having all the students together at once for this picture, groups of students were photographed and the images were later merged together.

In short, every effort was made to give these graduating students the best possible send-off, under extremely challenging circumstances.

I was at the school to see some of the mini-ceremonies, and I have been talking with teachers and members of a parents’ committee about this year’s graduation events.

It has been inspiring to see what they were able to do within the limitations they had to face. The mini-ceremonies offered a warm and intimate atmosphere.

Setting up this year’s graduation ceremonies has been difficult. The entire concept has had to be reworked and restructured for this year.

In the future, the graduates of 2020 will remember a graduation experience unlike that of previous classes.

They will remember the small ceremonies and physical distancing requirements during this pandemic.

They will remember the unique challenges of taking the class picture.

And most of all, they will remember the significant efforts that were made in order to give them a memorable graduation and rite of passage during a time when previous traditions could not be maintained.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

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