By ELLIANA KOPUT
As COVID-19 continues to shape the structure and functions of academia and social life, news and social media flood with considerations of its impacts on students.
Many have agreed that quality of education has decreased as professors scramble to make virtual accommodations. People are experiencing shifts in their mental health and motivation, but efforts to honor 2020 graduates across the United States are still underway.
Pima Community College is among many two-year institutions sending its 2020 graduates off to the future with a virtual commencement ceremony. This will be held at 7 p.m. May 21.
Andrew Plucker, director of administrative services in the Finance and Business Services Department, posted a YouTube video April 28. Plucker will be one of the hosts for the virtual graduation ceremony.
“I wanted to reach out to the class of 2020, and let you know how proud we are of you during this unprecedented time,” Plucker said. “In order to keep you and your family safe, we’re going to be celebrating your academic achievement virtually.”
The virtual ceremony will also follow a call for submissions of sentimental messages, which was sent to faculty in April. It will present videos of PCC faculty giving words of wisdom and advice for the class of 2020. The ceremony also will include photos and videos from students. To submit yours, upload them to social media with #PimaGrad20.
Students at the University of Arizona and PCC are reacting differently to the cancellation of the in-person ceremony. Some feel appreciation for the change and efforts, while others feel it will not live up to the excitement of a traditional commencement.
“I’m disappointed about graduation but happy that something is being done to try to make up for it,” said Robert Quintana, an English major and member of PCC’s class of 2020. “I probably won’t participate honestly, but I will appreciate meeting so many cool people that I’m very good friends with now.”
Still, students are doing what they can to celebrate alongside social-distancing guidelines. As it is tradition for graduates to cherish their accomplishments by taking headshots and photos in their garb, the PCC bookstore has caps and gowns available for contact-free purchase.
“I was feeling disappointed in the beginning because I worked so hard, and graduation was my main motivator to continue going to school,” said Tracy McAfee, a UArizona student graduating with her bachelor’s in Rehabilitation Studies and Services. “Now that it’s been over a month, I’m glad that we took these measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
“I’ll be participating in the online ceremony for the UofA and College of Education. If things continue to improve, I would enjoy having a celebration with my closest friends and family to commemorate this accomplishment.”
Students also are encouraged to celebrate with their families and friends online via Zoom or other video-chat platforms. Many are planning to throw “renegade” commencement parties with their friends when it is safe to do so. Others are going as far as creating a parade of cars full of family and friends, honking, cheering and leaving gifts outside for their graduate.
A Today.com article encourages graduates and their families to decorate their yards with commemorative photos, signage and balloons for neighbors to see. Some are even leaving boxes outside for would-be-party guests to leave cards (although that could be problematic in high crime areas).
Information as to the platform of the online event has not yet been released. However, updates can be found on PCC’s and the Aztec Press’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Information also will be sent out via MyPima. Students also are encouraged to participate in the exit survey sent out to their Pima emails.