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FunTimes Magazine

A Dream Deferred: COVID-19 Alters Graduation Ceremonies

By Nana Ama Addo

What is a human’s ultimate goal in life? Some say it is happiness. Others may attribute it to achieving greatness, or success, based on who you speak with.

After toiling, learning new subjects, and building bonds that will have lasting imprints, many students dream of gracefully donning their cap and gowns, walking down the aisle to their assigned seat, being handed their diploma, and turning their tassel from left to right as their family watches fondly, celebrating the sacrifices and hard work exhorted.

In a time of a pandemic, these liberties are kicked to the curb to prevent further infection. What is it like for graduates, school officials and graduation related businesses whose plans were put on hold? We are speaking to two very special people from my alma maters, TECH Freire Charter School and the College of Wooster, to find out.

Lynn Mcginley is a Dean at TECH Freire Charter School. She has worked in the education sector for over 20 years.

How has COVID-19 affected your graduation and school plans for the rest of the year?

The COVID-19 epidemic has greatly affected almost every aspect of school for the remainder of this school year. Our senior activities; the senior luncheon, senior trip, prom and graduation have been cancelled. Education is now transitioning to online classes. However, we are exploring alternative ways of having a graduation ceremony for our students.

How did the students respond when they learned their graduation program would be altered?

Many students were understandably upset when they were notified that they would be losing their graduation ceremonies. Some parents and students have repeatedly contacted the leaders of the school to voice their frustration.

What is the significance of a graduation ceremony to you?

Having been in education for over 20 years, I have always cherished the graduation ceremony. It has always been an amazing way to celebrate the achievement of finishing high school with students and their families.

What message do you have for this year’s high school graduates?

I would tell them that I understand their feelings of frustration and sadness, and that it is okay for them to grieve the loss of graduation festivities. I would also tell them that graduation is an event, and that they will all go on to engage in many wonderful events, and create many exciting memories during their lives.

Korri Palmer is a graduating senior at the College of Wooster. She is a Communications Studies major with an Africana Studies minor; she honors her life’s journeys through her podcast, ‘Rags to …’.

How has COVID-19 affected your graduation and school plans for the rest of the year?

I try not to stress about immediate changes because I cannot control them, but this pandemic just ended my senior year more abruptly than I imagined. I did not get to say goodbye to most of my friends and with the uncertainty of the future, I am not sure when I will see them again. Sometimes I feel like my moment of graduating was stolen from me, but I know that life just happens sometimes.

What was it like when you learned your graduation program was altered?

At first, devastating. Nobody wants to feel like all of their hard work amounts to a single sheet of paper for recognition. My graduation ceremony meant so much to me because of the trials and tribulations I faced as a low-income student.

What is the significance of a graduation ceremony to you?

I am getting this degree for my family. It is a symbol of our success. Throughout college I came face to face with my mental illness. I was sexually assaulted, and I was a woman of color at a predominately White institution, which comes with its own set of challenges. These trials didn’t define me. Instead, I am proud that in the moments, I could have broken, called it quit and went home. But I stayed and picked myself up; my graduation is a celebration of that.

What message do you have to college graduates who might be in this position?

Know that the world, or God or whoever you pray to, works in mysterious ways and everything always comes back around. Even if you do not get the ceremony you hoped for, this trial is preparation for us to be grateful for the ceremonies we have later in life. This teaches us to cherish life more.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Stay inside if you can, and stay as safe as you can. Mentally check in with yourself and take care of yourself. This is a time where doing the work just means staying as safe as possible.

FunTimes would like to extend a hand of thanks to our interviewees. Our sympathies go out to everyone in the education realm, students and staff alike, whose plans have been altered due to this pandemic.

Are you a graduating high school student, college student or an educator whose semester has been seriously disrupted because of COVID-19? Email us at [email protected], we love to hear from you!

Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Visit her storytelling brand at, and connect with her creative agency on Instagram: @chitheagency.