At least one Miami high school graduation is on despite the pandemic

Akeria Williams and Gia Ortiz aren't happy about the cancellations. (Photos courtesy of the graduates)

The pandemic has changed life as we know it. For many high school seniors, coronavirus has meant no traditional graduation ceremony, no prom, and no grad bash. It all started March 16, when Miami Dade Public Schools announced a district-wide closure

But the cancellations haven’t stopped administrators from praising their students and making sure they get their diplomas. One school arranged an airplane flyover and a drive-in graduation. Others have come up with yard signs that include seniors’ photos along with signed notes of congratulations. 

On social media, celebrities like LeBron James and Alicia Keys shared old graduation photos, as they took part in #GraduateTogether, an effort between the LeBron James Family Foundation, XQ Institute, and Entertainment Industry Foundation that included songs, a speech by former President Obama and choral singing. It was all streamed online and on television.

Senior Class of 2020 I just want y’all to know that the graduation show we’re putting together for you @SpringHillEnt @GradTogether is going to be INCREDIBLE and one for the ages!! Love each and every one of you!! The FUTURE you are. 🙏🏾❤️👑

Before going away to college, seniors have had to deal with spending time at home with mom and dad rather than with their classmates. Many have been making an effort to spend time with their friends  – virtually, of course —before their goodbyes.

Senior Gia Ortiz attends Young Women’s Preparatory Academy. The 18-year-old and her classmates have met on Zoom and  binge-watched movies including “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Midsommar” and playing trivia games on Kahoot.

My friends and I all wish we had a prom, graduation, grad bash, everything we were supposed to do because we wanted to spend our last high school moments together,” said Ortiz, who lives in Miami “My class organized a senior week on Zoom playing online games and watching movies together; it was fun but not the same as the real thing.”  

Akeria Williams will graduate from Miramar High School on June 9. She will attend Tennessee State University in the fall and plans to major in nursing. She is unhappy about not closing out her senior year.  

“My friends and I were looking forward to taking prom pictures with each other and enjoying graduation,” she said. “Just the thought of not being able to walk the stage makes us sad. I didn’t even get to take my cap and gown photos.”

On May 30, Miami Country Day School will stage graduation in a large parking lot at Barry University. The ceremony will be like a drive-in movie theater, as graduates will sit in their cars with their families. After graduates’ names are called, they will walk to a stage, where they will receive their diplomas as they follow social distancing guidelines. 

One Country Day student, Sofia Paredes, is a National Honor Society member and co-editor of the Spartacus newspaper. She will attend Cornell University and pursue a mechanical engineering major in the fall. She too is frustrated that this pandemic has taken over her senior year.

But Paredes is grateful that her school will be taking the initiative to pursue an unconventional ceremony. However, it does not feel the same as regular graduation.

“Some days it makes my friends and I very sad and all-around frustrated that this is happening to us, but other days it seems fine. We are all very regretful that we won’t have a prom or graduation, but we try not to think about it to avoid feeling sad about it all the time,” said Paredes

 Additionally, on May 18, Miami Country Day paid respect to their students with a flyover congratulating students on their last day of classes. 

“This pandemic has taught me how to be resilient in the current situation and make the most of this time at home even though I’d much prefer to have a traditional senior year,” said Paredes.

Taknighis Beauvoir currently is pursuing a Mass Communications degree in Broadcast Journalism. She aspires to inform the general public about important topics around South Florida.