Graduation ceremony adjusts for Covid

Despite limited attendance and uncertainty, this graduation hopes to promise a memorable time


Masks will now have to be a part of each senior’s graduation outfit. “I don’t think it’ll be much of a problem for me. I’m fine with wearing a mask,” Worku said. “The only thing is that when we accept our diplomas, no one will see any of our smiles.”

Caps and gowns glowing bright red to the crowd within the bleachers, cords swinging back and forth with the wind and smiles growing large behind masks as names are called through the stadium’s speakers.

This is the vision for this year’s in-person graduation ceremony in spite of the many challenges that have arisen due to the pandemic.

Following Governor Ralph Northam’s updated guidance for in-person graduation ceremonies, indoor and outdoor social gatherings and public health and space restrictions, AHS delivered the official news that a graduation event would be held for the seniors on Tues., June 1 at 9 a.m. on the stadium field.

“While it is not going to look the same as it did in past years, I am happy that we are able to offer something,” said Jeffrey Smith, an English teacher and member of the graduation committee.

Last year, unfortunately, the class of 2020 was unable to reconvene at an in-person ceremony and celebrate what they had achieved because of the abrupt end to their final school year in mid-March.

“When I learned that we were having a virtual graduation, it wasn’t surprising as everything had already shut down,” said Megan Le, a Class of 2020 alumna that now attends the University of Virginia. “It was something I had to accept, even though it did hurt knowing that I never got the chance to say goodbye to some people.”

A year later with updated logistics and guidelines, the current seniors welcome this valuable event with open arms.

“I’m very excited to have an in-person graduation, especially since my last year of high school was spent at home,” senior Haleluya Worku said. “Even though I’m sad the ceremony won’t be at Constitution Hall, I’m thankful that we have this opportunity to celebrate our success with our friends and family.”

Senior Nadiya Khalif expresses just as much gratitude.

“Considering the fact that I’m graduating, I’m more than grateful for any event that celebrates the accomplishments of me and my fellow seniors,” Khalif said. “Although a sense of normalcy has faded throughout 2020 and 2021, this in-person graduation ceremony is somewhat of an effort to regain such normalcy.”

Teachers are equally happy, especially since a majority of them have taught some seniors for several years.

“I am so excited for our seniors that they get to experience graduation in-person,” Art Teacher Carmen Lucas said. “This year’s graduating class had a rough start. I think the in-person experience will be a great positive to look back on.”

Despite such excitement, seniors and teachers must abide by several restrictions in order to ensure the safest ceremony possible.

Each senior, for example, will only be issued two tickets to the ceremony for their family members and friends. Without a doubt, the policy makes for some hard decisions and leaves many feeling disappointed.

“I am really bummed about not being able to bring more than two guests,” senior Jimmy Le said. “Some of my friends go to other schools, and they, as well as my grandparents, are really important to me. Unfortunately, they will not be able to see me graduate like I had always imagined.”

Regardless, many understand and reiterate the importance of such a precaution.

“While I know the limit on tickets might upset some students, I understand that it was done for safety and in order to allow the whole class the opportunity to graduate together,” English teacher Julia Hanneman said. “We have to remember that we are still in a pandemic and need to protect everyone.”

Not only will many relatives and friends be forced to view graduation virtually, but teachers who are not essential to the running of the ceremony will also have to do the same.

Even if she cannot volunteer for the ceremony, for instance, Lucas still intends on watching it online from a safe distance and cheering her heart out when she hears her students’ names.

“As much as I would love to be a part of [graduation] in a traditional way, this is a year of backup plans and improvising,” Lucas said. “I know I’ll be heartbroken if I miss out on it altogether. This class of students were all freshmen my first year at AHS, so this is my group of kids that I’ve watched grow up all four years.”

Everything, of course, is not set in stone for the ceremony. Every Monday, the graduation committee conferences about updated conditions and any possible changes that can be made. The committee, too, still meets to finalize plans for how long the ceremony will actually last and who will speak during it.

“Our big thing is that we want to give the senior class the best send-off that we can, considering the circumstances and considering that we want to make sure that we are being safe,” Smith said. “The most important thing that we’ve learned from this year is that we have to be flexible and know how to change things on the fly if we need to.”

With graduation a little more than a month away, seniors are encouraged to stay hopeful and make the most of it.

“Whatever the good happens to be, cherish it,” said Isabel Pho, a Class of 2020 alumna that now attends Brigham Young University. “Don’t let any negative circumstances tarnish the value of that good. Let good things be wonderful.”