Stuyvesant Plans to Host a Virtual Graduation

After the cancelation of the in-person graduation ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stuyvesant will release a pre-recorded virtual graduation ceremony for viewing on June 30.

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By Yume Igarashi

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, plans to host an in-person graduation ceremony for the senior class on June 23 have been canceled. In response, the administration and the Parents’ Association have begun planning a virtual, pre-recorded graduation for the class of 2020 to be live-streamed by the graduating seniors and their families.

The ceremony, which is to be recorded through MarchingOrderVirtual Ceremony Solutions, will be released on June 30, with each senior contributing a photograph of himself or herself, a personalized message, and an optional selfie video. Graduation regalia is scheduled to be delivered to students by June 12. “Students will have slides where they can upload images, videos, and quotes that they want displayed. It will be alphabetical by last name. We will have speeches and other performances, but they will all be pre-recorded,” Coordinator of Student Affairs Matthew Polazzo said in an e-mail interview.

To accommodate for the changes in graduation, senior dues were modified accordingly. “We gave seniors the option of purchasing a graduation package that included their cap and gown, tassel, senior t-shirt, diploma case, and yearbook,” Senior Caucus Co-President Hana Kim said in an e-mail interview. “If they decided they wanted to receive this, they could [choose to either] receive partial refunds if they had already paid their dues earlier, pay the modified dues (which totaled to $140), or donate the difference to Stuyvesant.”

Traditionally, chorus members sing at Carnegie Hall, where the graduation ceremony is normally held. Because of the in-person cancelation, many were disappointed at not having the opportunity to sing there this year. “I am kind of disappointed that chorus is no longer performing [live] at graduation. I was really looking forward to singing ‘Baba Yetu’ with the other choruses,” sophomore Sophia Li said in an e-mail interview. “Performing at Carnegie Hall last year was such an electrifying experience. It felt almost surreal, standing on one of the most famous stages in America.”

Instead, the graduation video will contain a pre-recorded performance by current seniors in chorus, who will sing “Carrickfergus,” in addition to other songs that were intended for the spring chorus concert, which was also canceled. “I have been working with my chorus seniors on a virtual piece that they chose to sing. Currently, I'm editing it. Hopefully, the editing goes well, and the piece will be ready in time to be featured at graduation,” music teacher Liliya Shamazov said in an e-mail interview.

Despite not being able to sing at Carnegie Hall, Shamazov has been enthusiastic about the performance. “There are about 60 seniors participating in this virtual choir performance. Most of them have sung (or played piano) with me for the past four years. While not the same as singing together live, this is still a wonderful way for the singers to connect musically and unite in song during our current situation,” she said.

Senior Julian Wong agreed. “It's a pretty cheerful way to end off our time at Stuy's chorus, and considering the circumstances, it's the best that can be done,” he said in an e-mail interview.

Many seniors expressed disappointment in ending their senior year with a virtual graduation. “You already have all of your wonderful and less wonderful memories, many of them unique to Stuy and the people there; what can a frankly, really generic ceremony meaningfully add?” senior Aaron Wang said in an e-mail interview. “Unfortunately, the seeing friends live part is right out. We aren't even getting this [live] over the internet.”

Though Wang had hoped for the graduation to be live, a pre-recorded video was the most viable option for the virtual graduation. “[A live graduation would have] too many moving parts, too many things that could go wrong, [and] too many graduates to qualify for existing vendors,” Polazzo said. “We all know that a virtual graduation is not as good as the real thing, but we are working hard on it and hope that it can be sufficient until the time that we can all get together again in person.”

Despite the circumstances, many seniors appreciate the effort put into creating a virtual graduation. “The efforts of the SU and the Senior Caucus are very commendable and definitely deserve recognition,” Wong said.

Kim hopes to hold an in-person graduation in addition to the virtual graduation in the future. “We are aiming to hold an in-person graduation when the situation allows. We don’t know if it will be in the upcoming winter or even next spring, but we intend to make this a priority,” Kim said. “In the meantime, we did want to have some form of celebration—graduating, after all, is no easy feat.”