The Story Behind a Petition to Hold College Commencement in Person, Despite COVID-19

Raquel Perez is incomes her affiliate diploma in audio engineering this spring. It’s a milestone many semesters within the making. The 32-year-old has spent the final 5 years pursuing a level at Houston Group Faculty, balancing lessons with paid work and elevating her seven youngsters.

Propelling her ahead via all of that effort was her imaginative and prescient of the day she’d stroll throughout the graduation stage and settle for her diploma.

So studying that her school didn’t plan to host a commencement ceremony as a consequence of COVID-19 issues?

“It’s a punch within the intestine,” she says. “It’s not acceptable to me.”

A canceled commencement could look like simply one other lacking second in a protracted, disappointing 12 months of disaster. However for Perez, the promise of graduation provides as much as far more than cheers and tears and robes and mortarboards. It’s a ceremony of passage worthy of its title, signifying the beginning of a brand new life for her and her household.

The deep that means commencement day holds for college students like Perez is one thing she thinks school leaders ought to think about after they’re weighing well being dangers and logistics this spring. That’s why she began a petition in favor of holding a ceremony that folks can bodily attend as an alternative of the web model her school at present has deliberate. It’s considered one of a number of petitions circulating amongst college students throughout the nation who hope to push their schools to supply some form of occasion they’ll expertise in individual—with all of the pomp and circumstance they’ve been relying on.

Perez family
Raquel Perez and her household. Courtesy of Perez.

It’s been a tough 12 months of largely on-line studying for Perez. As a substitute of with the ability to use the audio labs on campus, she says she had to purchase her personal gear and arrange a studio at house to finish her coursework. She was furloughed and misplaced work. After which that main winter storm hit Houston, knocking out her operating water.

Simply because it appeared that “higher issues are coming,” she says, “the one factor I’m ready for—I’m tremendous excited for—will not be turning out.”

Perez says that as a younger mother, she didn’t have the possibility to stroll throughout her highschool commencement stage. Final 12 months, she earned a university certificates—however because of the pandemic, she bought a slideshow as an alternative of an actual graduation. Having missed these two ceremonies makes the prospect of lacking one other, larger one exhausting for her to take.

“I labored exhausting, haven’t slept, gone to lessons, put my complete work schedule round this, simply to be advised, ‘You don’t get it, and also you’re by no means going to get it,’” she says.

The lack of the expertise will not be hers alone. Perez’s husband can also be graduating this spring, from Houston Group Faculty’s HVAC program.

“We strive to ensure our lessons are reverse days. Both he works within the day and I am going to work at night time, or we’re buying and selling off,” she says. “It’s been loads.”

And their youngsters—ages two to 15, amongst them two units of twins—who’ve grown up watching their mother and father research have been trying ahead to witnessing the reward of that dedication.

“They’re excited for me,” Perez says. “They know that it means loads to me to get to stroll the stage.”

Making a digital commencement really feel worse to Perez is the truth that other forms of actions are opening again up in her area—and different close by faculties have deliberate to carry their ceremonies in individual.

“I simply really feel like possibly as a result of we’re a neighborhood college, they don’t owe it to us. We’re plenty of working mother and father, plenty of minorities,” she says. “My two-year diploma doesn’t imply it’s any much less value it. I attempted exhausting for that too.”

As of Friday, the petition Perez began had 600 signatures.


Leave a Comment