Changes to graduation leaves seniors ready to walk after year of setbacks, uncertainty

To ensure a safe and dignified graduation, students and guests will be required to wear masks and social distance.

Photo courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

To ensure a safe and dignified graduation, students and guests will be required to wear masks and social distance.

Sydney Chin, Section Editor

Graduation is the moment all high school students are working towards.  After four years of hard work, sleepless nights, and  countless tests and assignments,  seniors can finally relish in the opportunity to be handed their diplomas and enter the next chapter of their life.  

“Graduation is a moment of reflection and recognition to every student who has accomplished 12 years of school,” explained senior Helian Mojica. “As a student who has accomplished a lot in high school, graduation is important to me. It means a lot to be recognized at graduation by other peers and family for all my hard work.”

This year’s graduation ceremony will take place on June 15, 8:00 a.m. at the Expo Center at the South Florida Fairgrounds  In years past, Central’s graduation ceremony was held at the  Palm Beach County Convention Center and then at the South Florida Fairgrounds. Typically, a crowd of family members and faculty packed the venue in order to hear the valedictorian and salutatorian speeches, hear the chorus sing a selection of reflective songs, and watch their students walk across the stage. 

Last year, however, shuttered this event due to the stay-at-home orders and health concerns over COVID-19.  District officials and school administrators were left scrambling to create an  event following the CDC guidelines while also having a dignified and momentous graduation.  As a result, schools were left hosting a virtual graduation where Principal Edgecomb, amongst other local educators, and the school’s valedictorian and salutatorian recorded and broadcasted their speeches to be streamed live through Central’s YouTube channel. Additionally, instead of any formal procession, graduating students were displayed in a slideshow.

“Last year’s graduation was tough not being able to really get closure from the school you have been going to for four years,” explained senior Ronisha Reneus. “The school did the best they could out of a bad situation.”

This year, the graduating class of 2021 will once again have the opportunity to physically walk the stage (with a few tweaks).  The event will once again take place at the South Florida Expo Center. The district will be implementing CDC guidelines which include keeping visitors in a “pod” to maintain social distancing and enforcing a mask mandate for all graduates and attendees.  Each graduate will be given two tickets to share.  Family members with tickets will then be required to sit with each other while being sufficiently separated from other attendees.  The graduates, however, will remain in another room.  Speeches will be presented live, in front of the graduates while family members in the main hall will view the speeches via a live stream.  For the processional, graduates will be released in smaller groups to march into the room where the attendees are seated to receive their diplomas.  As the graduates’ names are called out, then will then go up onto the stage to receive their diplomas from Principal Edgecomb.  Photos will be taken as graduates are handed their diplomas and then they will be escorted back to their original room. To comply with CDC guidelines, there will not be any handshaking between the graduates and school officials, the choir will be pre-recorded, and graduation programs will not be distributed.

“At this point, it is the intention of the school district to continue with the in-person ceremony,” said Ms. Baxter. “I am very hopeful that the live ceremony will take place.”

Both students and staff have already expressed their excitement about this occasion.

“I think this will provide a different level of excitement,” said Principal Edgecomb. “As I wrote my graduation speech last year, I experienced all the emotions at that time.  When the graduation actually aired, I felt as if I was watching a movie.  However, the live graduation ceremony will allow all stakeholders to experience all the emotions of this special event at the same time.”

For those who choose not to attend in person, students, friends, and family can also tune to the School District’s YouTube channel where the event will be live-streamed. It will also be broadcasted on the channels The Education Network (TEN), Comcast channel 235, and AT&T U-verse channel 99.

I think walking across the stage will provide the seniors with a thrilling and exciting moment,” expressed Edgecomb. “I don’t think they realize how emotional this moment will be.  I would like for every single senior to know how truly proud I am to serve as their principal.  They have accomplished what no other class has ever accomplished.  Their legacy will demonstrate how they successfully made it through many barriers and still finished strong.  I would simply tell them to enjoy the experience.”

For more information, please follow the link