Graduation for the Class of 2021

Anna Saputo

In a second year of graduation ceremonies during the pandemic, Utica Community Schools is planning to hold virtual and in-person options for the graduating seniors of 2021 across the high schools in the district.

Senior advisors are taking what that they did last year and trying to do their best in order to provide seniors with the proper sendoff they deserve. This year, the district plans to hold multiple ceremonies for each school at the Freedom Hill Amphitheater on June 5-6.

“The drive-by commencement was nice for what we were up against last year,” Utica senior advisor Catherine Lelito said. “The number one thing I heard from graduates was that they were not with their friends or graduating class. That is what I like about Utica High. These kids want to be together for one last time. This year, selfishly, because I have twins graduating this year from Utica, it is very near and dear to my heart even more. I want to see that regular commencement, whether the seating is spaced out a little bit, wearing our masks, or having a regular commencement with speeches that are sped up or have the time cut down a little bit.”

Regarding the uncertainty in what schools will be doing for graduation is causing some students to feel a little less enthusiastic about it.

“I have mixed emotions,” Stevenson senior Kristin Snyder said. “I want to have a “normal” graduation filled with my friends and family to make a last high school memory, but I am not looking forward to sitting around to get my diploma all day. I do not have the patience for that. I am also sad that I might not be able to have all the people at my ceremony that have impacted my school career to get me where I am.”

The limits of the pandemic can often shadow student’s hopes for graduation.

“If I could have one wish granted for my senior graduation it would be to have everybody there and that COVID was not present,” Eisenhower senior Mackenzie Woolner said. “I plan on having some family and friends at a bonfire for my grad party.”

The significance and view of a senior graduation is different for everyone.

“I want to attain a good, final memory with my senior year,” Utica senior Aeida Khamissi said. “Senior year was supposed to be an incredible year of bidding high school goodbye and officially entering the world of adulthood. However, this year it was very unexpected and completely virtual for me and for so many other people. Graduation can help lessen the overall dull experience and help seniors, including me, have that sense of fulfillment that your senior year is supposed to give you. Just by being able to graduate and have that senior graduation, I think it is possible for me to attain my good memory.”

While managing through the difficulties of the pandemic, having the positivity and healthy state of mind helps to make this an event to look forward to.

“My one wish for graduation would be that every senior gets to feel as if they still had the opportunity to have a proper graduation ceremony and still get to make the happy memories that come with it,” Stevenson senior Marissa Isabell said. “I am hoping there are seating arrangements for families that are a recommended distance apart so they can still see their senior graduate while also being able to attend an actual ceremony.”

The anticipation that seniors experience when graduating holds a great significance and impact upon their lives. It is a milestone memory that they will carry always.

“There is something to be said about putting on that cap and gown when you are a senior,” Lelito said. “That is a big deal. You are doing it for yourself, for your parents and your family. It is just an exciting day from start to finish.  I think it is very important to do something like that and for others to see, whether it is just your family driving by sitting in the car or at an actual facility. It is a rite of passage into adulthood and your next journey no matter what.”