PA seniors react to new plans for graduation

Katie Smith

For senior Kana Roarty, graduation is about celebrating her achievements with the people who helped her to achieve them.

“I don’t believe that the point of graduation is to receive a diploma solely based on your individual accomplishments,” said Roarty. “The point of graduation is to celebrate the end of an era that you were able to get through because of your friends, teachers, and mentors that were there with you.”

She was disappointed to learn that as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Virginia Beach’s high school seniors will not have the typical graduation experience.

In years past, students have walked across the stage at the Virginia Beach Convention Center to receive their diploma with their classmates, teachers, and family cheering them on.

With governor Ralph Northam putting an executive order in place, requiring that groups of no more than 10 gather in one area, the typical graduation ceremony was not an option.

On May 19, Superintendent Aaron Spence announced his new plan for high school students to receive their diplomas.

Seniors will have an individual graduation ceremony during June 17-June 20, in which they will be able to wear their cap and gown to walk across stage and receive their diploma. Each student can have a guess list with less than 10 people and everyone must maintain social distancing guidelines.

“I think the new plans for graduation are the best possible way we can recognize graduates with their families in attendance,” said assistant principal Ryan O’Meara.

Although this is not the graduation ceremony that senior Alex Hakim had envisioned, she is still grateful for the opportunity to walk across the stage.

“I’m so glad that we do get a ceremony to end the year but I wish it could be with the whole school so I would be able to see everyone and celebrate with them,” wrote Hakim.

Many seniors, as well as PA administrators, agree with Hakim, stating that they are happy they will have a ceremony; however, they are disappointed the ceremony will not be shared with their classmates.

“While it’ll be official and I’ll finally get to wear my cap and gown, it just won’t be the same without all of my friends there,” said senior Daniel Bojo.

“I worried we might not have been able to do this at all and was relieved to learn the graduates have an opportunity to come back to Princess Anne and be recognized for their outstanding accomplishments,” said O’Meara.

Furthermore, students were also disappointed that their thoughts were not taken into account when making the new plans.

“While it’s better than nothing, I wish we could’ve given some input as seniors in what we wanted for graduation.” said Bojo.

Roarty also stated, “I think it’s stupid because they didn’t consult actual seniors to see what they wanted themselves.”

Students had many ideas for different ways that graduation could’ve been celebrated to allow them to spend it with their classmates and friends.

“I would’ve liked to see them move graduation to the end of summer or have us six feet apart in the Princess Anne stadium,” said Roarty.

Despite the disappointment of not receiving the graduation ceremony they had always envisioned, PA seniors are grateful to have seen the community come together in different ways to honor the hard work of the class of 2020.

With the help of teachers at PA, the PTA was able to distribute signs to congratulate every senior who is graduating.

“I think it’s so sweet how they delivered the yard signs it was such a sweet surprise and I loved getting to see a couple PA teachers,” said Hakim.

Along with the altered graduation ceremony, the superintendent also included a virtual tribute as well as working with local businesses and members of the community to display messages congratulating the class of 2020.

This is not the end of high school that many seniors had pictured, however it is one that will always be remembered.

“I’m definitely disappointed in how my senior year ended and probably will always be disappointed. There are just so many lost memories and experiences that we don’t even know if we’re allowed to be upset about since there are worse things happening. I’m glad we’re all going through it together because we’ve been helping each other as much as we can.” said Daniel Bojo.