Senior celebrations and graduations were cancelled or cut short from the coronavirus outbreak. The graduates’ journeys have been unlike any other. From living through 9/11 as babies to now in the middle of a pandemic, the 2020 graduating class leaves behind an unforgettable legacy. With coronavirus school closures, Volusia County Schools (VCS) planned alternative graduation events to give seniors the ceremony they deserve.
High school graduations for 4,000 Volusia County seniors will take place during the summer at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida. VCS plans to host traditional graduation ceremonies, including each senior walking the stage to receive their diplomas. Each of the 10 high schools in the district has a designated ceremony time during the week of July 9 – 11, 2020.
Chelsea Lewis, a senior from New Smyrna Beach High School (NSBHS) located in New Smyrna Beach, is worried about how many people will actually attend the ceremony. “Some students have already made summer plans. Having graduation in the summer seems to be diminishing the importance of the ceremony for some students.”
Although the graduates are able to celebrate completing 12 years of education, all are facing tough challenges during this happy time. According to VCS website, VCSEDU.org, tickets for the ceremonies are limited to only two people per graduate. The seniors are faced with the conflict of how to choose who can attend between parents, siblings, grandparents and other loved ones.
“The most important element to my graduation ceremony is having my family members be there and watch me receive my diploma,” explains Jaide Moore, a senior at Atlantic High School located in Port Orange. “My grandparents have waited so long to see all of their grandchildren graduate. We are all lucky to still have a ceremony, but it is not the same.” While attending school, Moore also participated in the early childhood education track at the Teaching, Education and Learning Academy (TEAL).
Jayda Isenbarger, a senior at NSBHS with dual enrollment at Daytona State College, feels devastated she is not able to wear a white cap and gown symbolizing her consistently high GPA and accolades during dual enrollment. “Due to COVID-19, the ACT test was rescheduled to June,” explained Isenbarger. “I did not get the chance, like past seniors, to improve my score before graduation. I had to pick up my red cap and gown on May 21, 2020.”
Graduation ceremonies are not the only events Volusia seniors missed. Many looked forward to the tradition of “Grad Bash” hosted at Universal Studios. Seniors enjoy an exciting night with their friends in Florida’s only grad celebration with exclusive, private access to thrilling rides and attractions. Due to the park’s temporary closure, all 2020 Grad event nights were cancelled.
“The impact on extracurriculars are enormous,” commented Lewis, who participated in NSBHS Student Government Association. “We did not have the traditional ‘legacy walk’ where the seniors march around the school and the courtyard in a single line, led by the band.” Lewis was also president of the NSBHS Science Olympiad team. “Our banquet to celebrate our achievements for the year and show members and donors our appreciation was cancelled.”
Isenbarger participated in NSBHS basketball, flag football and was an active member of Mu Alpha Theta. “The 2020 class is missing out on saying our last goodbyes to our fellow classmates, teachers and coaches,” said Isenbarger. “I did not have events like prom, honors night and senior sports night. All of these experiences were very important to me.”
A private Facebook group, Adopt a Volusia County 2020 Senior, was created on April 15, 2020 for the community. Members can pledge to send a letter, card or gift at their own discretion to congratulate a graduating senior. If interested in participating, visit Facebook.com, search for the group name and request to join.