Stuyvesant Announces Senior Graduation and Junior Prom Plans
Issue 14, Volume 111
As the end of the school year approaches, seniors anticipate their graduation. Due to the overall decline of COVID-19 cases and the introduction of vaccines, especially with the eligibility for those 16 years and older, this year’s graduating class will be convening with a live, in-person celebration on June 25 at noon. The ceremony is planned to be held at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, NY, an outdoor location that will be roofed during graduation.
With social distancing policies in place, the school administration is working alongside the Student Union to ensure that the event is held in a safe and enjoyable manner for all. “Graduation has been a project at the forefront of our minds since we began our term in September. At first, we worked with Mr. [Matthew] Polazzo, the Coordinator of Student Affairs, to explore options of both in-person and virtual ceremonies,” Senior Caucus co-presidents Katerina Corr and Ayala Sela said in an e-mail interview. “There was never really any debate over whether we wanted to host an in-person ceremony—everyone agreed that it would be an invaluable end to such a challenging senior year.”
To mitigate the risks of COVID-19, several health guidelines will be instated. The stadium will only be at about 20 percent capacity to comply with social distancing. Graduates, family members, and faculty must wear face masks. Additionally, attendees are required to have proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test result. Additionally, each graduate will receive three additional tickets instead of the usual two. The ceremony will also be live-streamed to allow those unable to attend to watch it at home. Last year, the graduation ceremony for seniors was to be located at Carnegie Hall but was canceled due to the pandemic. The event was substituted with a virtual graduation.
This year, senior dues will not include graduation ceremony tickets as the school administration and Stuyvesant Alumni Association will cover the cost instead. Seniors are only expected to pay for senior regalia, the senior t-shirt, and the yearbook.
As of now, plans for Stuyvesant’s choirs, all three of which typically perform at graduation with a special ovation given to the senior members of chorus, are still unknown.
Many seniors approve of this proposed arrangement for senior graduation as they have not been able to fully experience their final year of high school. “Having free graduation tickets is fair. Many people are already discouraged from going because of COVID-19, so if there was a fee, I don't think many people would attend. I personally wouldn't attend if there was an expensive fee,” senior Wilson Wong said in an e-mail interview.
Others agree that an in-person graduation is apt, given the improved health circumstances. “Both my parents are vaccinated and I am scheduled to be vaccinated in the next week. So on top of the existing safety procedures, I’d definitely rather have an in-person graduation than a virtual one,” senior Maisha Nabila said in an e-mail interview.
Throughout the school year, remote learning has also presented many drawbacks when it comes to connecting with peers and teachers. “Even with virtual events and classes, it isn’t quite the same as seeing your classmates in school or working together on an extracurricular project,” Sela said.
Students also mentioned that remote learning has put a damper on the academic aspect of their senior year. “The largest downside of remote learning is that it has at times turned interactions with teachers and their classes into much more transactional exchanges where you just do what you have to do, and don't necessarily look forward to a certain teacher's class,” senior Francesco Siniscalso said in an e-mail interview.
These limitations of remote learning have become increasingly evident to upperclassmen as they were unable to participate in senior traditions and socialize with schoolmates. “Senior year is supposed to be a time [when] we celebrate our achievements at Stuyvesant and make memories with those in our community,” Wong said. “This year was especially hard for seniors going through the college process remotely and most of us are worn out.”
The Senior Caucus hopes to keep senior spirits high in spite of the limitations of remote learning as the year draws to a close. “So far, we have had the privilege of launching interactive online activities for seniors as well as hosting exciting events,” Corr and Sela said. “This spring, seniors can expect a number of other traditions and activities including a college commitment Instagram account, college map, senior crush lists, a system for sending gifts for letters of recommendation, and several projects that will be unique to the Class of 2021.”
Seniors this year will not have to miss the tradition of an in-person graduation and will be able to complete their high school journey together. “Though I’m sure that every senior has a unique perspective on what graduation this year means to them, I’d imagine that as a whole we’re all excited for this last opportunity to celebrate together,” Corr said. “Graduation represents both the bright future ahead for us seniors and the resilience we’ve all needed to succeed despite the pandemic.”
Junior prom, a beloved tradition at Stuyvesant, will not be held in-person this school year. While the administration had originally considered the possibility of both a senior prom and junior prom to be held on Governors Island earlier in the year, the Department of Education (DOE) established a no-prom policy.
Normally, junior prom is held on a yacht. However, there is not enough outdoor space for an event to follow COVID-19 guidelines and the DOE has banned all in-person proms regardless. “This has all been a pretty difficult process for us that has involved talking with the administration to see what's available because only just recently, we heard that the DOE wasn't allowing in-person proms, so this is all in the works. We're adapting. We're trying to make something work,” Junior Caucus Vice President Elio Torres said.
Though planning for junior prom has been difficult for Junior Caucus as they oversee the logistics, Torres and Junior Caucus President Cynthia Tan are currently exploring alternatives to uphold this tradition.
One such alternative is the option of a virtual prom. While Tan and Torres have started brainstorming ideas for a virtual junior prom, they are taking into account their role as a caucus and the considerations of the larger junior class before making a final decision. “The whole purpose of the caucus is just to get the students’ ideas and put them in motion, so even though we really want to do a prom, we won't if the students aren't interested,” Tan said.
To gauge interest, Tan and Torres recently sent out a Google Forms survey to the junior class to see the class’s response to a possible virtual prom. The replies so far have largely been negative and against such a course of action. Such responses have prompted Tan and Torres to begin creating a more fleshed-out plan as to what a virtual prom would look like in the hopes that more details would influence juniors’ future decisions.
They believe there are still ways to create a positive experience for the junior class and hope to maximize the experience of a virtual junior prom by implementing activities and entertainment depending on the selected theme. “We were thinking of having breakout rooms and getting to reserve a breakout room with your friends. And in that way, you can still speak to people that maybe you haven't gathered with in a large group setting in a really long time,” Tan said. “[We are also thinking of] a speaker, a famous one or maybe a YouTuber, that can send a video specifically for Stuyvesant High School. Just like graduation, except instead of a commencement speech, it would be like, ‘Hey, it's us. Welcome to prom,’” Tan said.
Tan and Torres hope to send out a more concrete plan for the virtual junior prom and gauge interest from there. Depending on the response from the student body, they will decide whether to go through with it. “We want to do what's feasible and what people want, which is why we're trying to put the decision in their hands, not in our hands,” Torres said.