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A year after the pandemic: how the landscape of graduation has changed

Local News

DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – Graduation is a right of passage for students, faculty and staff.

“It is the moment where all of the hard work and dedication and sweat and tears and love has gone into that moment and we want it to be all that it could be,” said Christyn Abaray, Assistant to the President and Secretary to the Board of Trustees for Lawrence University.

The pandemic changed the way we celebrate graduates, from last year in hastily put-together social distanced ceremonies for the Class of 2020.

“The kids are still happy and celebrated and again able to put on their gown and just cheer each other on,” said Julie Laabs, the Principal of Valders High School in 2020, after a socially distant celebration.

To now, where schools have had the last year to plan and get creative in order to honor their graduates in 2021.

Brian Wunderlich, the Principal, at Neenah High School said they are having “an in-person graduation for all of our graduates who choose to participate, will be in our field house which is a luxury for us in that we can socially distance.”

Colleges, like UW Green Bay gave their graduates a similar experience to last year.

“As the graduate is exiting their car they will have their name, their degree and any honorary’s they are graduating with be announced, just as if they were processing through a traditional graduation ceremony,” said Gail Sims-Aubert, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Inclusivity and Student Affairs at UW Green Bay.

Some universities opted to hold a modified ceremony outside in order to give their graduates a sense of normalcy despite the need for distancing and masking.

Julie Massey, the Interim Vice President for Student Affairs at St. Norbert College, said “We’ve been hearing from students and their families that they’re just incredibly grateful. They’re grateful that we have the opportunity for commencement exercises to happen in person.”

“We plan to have an in-person commencement on June 13th at 10 am here at the Banta Bowl,” said Abaray. “We wish we could have done it last year. Commencement, graduation, is the culminating event for any of our students, it is the highlight for any of our families.”

UW Oshkosh opted to spread people out in an indoor space.

Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said, “The Oshkosh Student Government Association came to us and said we’d really like you to do this for the students. And so we worked together with the students, we worked with our emergency operations center in order to craft a plan.”

Students and family members were grateful to have any chance to celebrate.

Megan van Ruiswyk earned a BAA in Finance from UW Oshkosh and said, “It was exciting, I’m glad we were able to get together in person. It was really nice to be able to see so many faces together.”

Naomi Kreiner attended the St. Norbert’s graduation to celebrate her sister, she said, “I missed my older brother’s graduation so it was important to see hers because she’s worked very hard.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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