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My high school graduation was ruined. I'm now graduating from college and getting the ceremony I deserve.

Moses Jeanfrancois   

My high school graduation was ruined. I'm now graduating from college and getting the ceremony I deserve.
  • I graduated high school in 2020, so I didn't get the normal graduation ceremony.
  • The pandemic also ruined my classes and social life at college the first year.

In March 2020, when the world stopped for the COVID pandemic, my small high school in New Jersey sent an email explaining our spring break would start early and last indefinitely.

My senior year was ripped from me. We pushed prom back until it became nonexistent. Graduation traditions like Senior Sunrise and Senior Ditch Day disappeared completely. Meanwhile, the details of our actual graduation ceremony became a mystery.

I watched on social media as schools around the country forced their seniors into graduating on Zoom calls. Some were even given their diplomas via drive-thrus as if they were ordering at McDonalds.

Luckily, my high school decided to push our graduation to late July for an in-person ceremony. But it didn't feel like a moment of celebration. Everyone had to be six feet apart, silent, and wearing a mask. Graduation parties were nonexistent except for a select few.

Those of us who persevered through the strange pandemic high school graduation are now graduating from college. This month, I finally got my chance to celebrate my education properly at the New School in New York City.

The pandemic rippled throughout my college career

After my high school graduation, the awkward Zoom school years didn't end. In fact, I took virtual classes in college on and off through the end of 2021. Right when we thought we were safe to continue maskless, someone would get sick. It'd be another round of pretending to pay attention while my video was off.

I assume those who were able to enjoy college pre-2020 got to experience new adventures, like sneaking into frat parties as a freshman. For the class of 2024, that wasn't really a possibility. Even visiting campus facilities was a feat since actual campuses were shut down.

Plus, being locked inside for so long took away our social skills. Once we were let out into the world again, it was difficult for me to make friends, and college is the time you're supposed to be the most social. It was incredibly frustrating.

But as my college career continued, I was able to enjoy the true "college experience" everyone describes: parties, late nights studying in the library, and all the essential experiences that allow for the bridge into adulthood.

I almost missed out on an in-person graduation again

Just a couple of weeks before my college graduation was scheduled, protests for Gaza began on the New School campus. At the same time, our professors moved our classes to parks, studios, or the dreaded Zoom.

Once again, my graduation ceremony seemed uncertain. It wasn't clear if the school would cancel it amid the protests.

My fellow classmates and I felt a mass amount of exhaustion. We had already gone through so much over four years, and at the home stretch, it felt like it could all fall apart again. Our last ask as debt-ridden 20-year-olds was to walk across the stage for 10 seconds.

Thankfully, the ceremony was not canceled. On my graduation day — just last week — I woke up at 6 a.m., sat with my fellow graduates, and received my diploma on the stage.

It's funny to think that three years ago, in order to leave a dorm, I had to put on a mask to go through the hallway and then head outside. But now, my friends and I can sit right next to each other with our caps and gowns while joking throughout our ceremony.

The heaviness of the moment was not lost on me. After everything my class has been through, graduation felt more meaningful and lively. I'm beyond grateful to finally get the chance to celebrate everything I accomplished.

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