Cal’s 2020 Class is the first ever to have a virtual graduation ceremony

Seniors had a lot of momentous high school events cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic

Across the top of the Cal High website lies a red stripe stating that class is canceled for the remainder of the 2019-2020 year. 

For freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, this means missing out on creating more memories with friends and finishing out the school year as expected.

For seniors, though, this means a lot more. 

Members of the Class of 2020 have strong feelings about the cancellation of their last semester of high school because of the coronavirus pandemic. Because the state of California is under a shelter-in-place order, students aren’t able to create those final memories with their friends before going off to college. And much more.

 “It just sucks because if I could still see my friends, I wouldn’t feel the loss of graduation and ball and everything else as much,” senior Anisha Raju said. “Now I’m stuck spending my last semester of high school at home by myself with nothing to do.”

The list of activities that seniors will be missing or have already missed out on include traditional graduation ceremonies on May 29, Senior Ball, Grad Night, senior picnic, senior night, and senior sunset. Refunds were issued for Grad Night for those who wanted them, and Cal’s financial analyst will be issuing refunds for all canceled events, including those students were in the Gold Package, Principal Megan Keefer said.

When asked about what they hope will happen with senior events, most students share a similar viewpoint.

“Graduation should be postponed, not canceled, or made virtual if possible,” senior Lilly Raphaelian said. 

District and school administrators have been listening to student concerns. An email was recently that if possible, an in person graduation ceremony will take place. 

“Until we have more information from the county, we cannot hold any in-person events,” Principal Megan Keefer said. “We are committed to finding a way to celebrate you all beyond a virtual graduation ceremony.”  

In the meantime, the school’s first virtual ceremony was May 29 and it featured recorded speeches from Keefer, history teacher Ryan Cook and several students. The teacher band, Partial Credit, also performed a pre-recorded version of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. Individual slides featuring each graduate’s name, photo and a quote while a staff member read the student’s name wee shown to replace the traditional roll call of names.

As for ball and other activities, seniors wanted postponement rather than cancellation but they aren’t holding on to hope for that to happen.

Seniors who were playing spring sports also lost out on more than half of their final season and senior night, an event honoring senior varsity players that some students have looked forward to since their freshman year playing sports. 

“Every other graduate got to experience everything that we can’t and most of them say that events like ball and grad night were the highlights of their senior year,” senior Josh Saldanah said.

Some seniors are taking the disruption of their final year in high school more in stride.

“[Senior year] is overhyped,” said senior Riya Belani, who offered underclassmen some advice. “Treat each year of high school like it is your last and don’t wait to have fun till your last semester because you think it will be less stressful.” 

Unfortunately, some seniors have given up on their final semester. 

“I honestly don’t care anymore,” senior Keren Rivkin said. “At first, I was sad about it but now I just want freshman year of college to happen.”

Many students like Rivkin are now worried about the possibility of starting college online in the fall.

Some colleges have already stated they will be online for the first semester. The California State University system recently announced that all 23 of its campuses will be closed for the fall 2020 semester, according to ABC 7 News. 

California Community College Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley believes that online college is the best plan for the 115-college system for the fall of 2020 as well, according to Cal Matters, a non-profit publication.

On the plus side, University of California president Janet Napolitano predicts that most or all of the nine UC undergraduate campuses will run in a hybrid mode. She said labs and small classes will take place in person, while lectures will take place online, according to the Mercury News.

While concerns about what college will bring in the fall is adding to seniors’ struggles at the end of their high school careers, the school is doing everything it can to help celebrate the Class of 2020. 

After sending out a Google form for students to share their ideas on what to do to recognize seniors, administrators have decided to have a memory drive on June 2. The memory drive will feature students driving with parents through campus in their caps and gowns while teachers line the parade route and cheer them on.

In addition, Cal’s PTSA and leadership delivered a rose to the doorstep of seniors’ houses on the day of Senior Ball. Many parents also have put lawn signs in their yards to recognize their 2020 graduate. 

“I hope and pray daily for all of us to be together again soon,” Keefer said. “It is indeed a very frustrating time and I am deeply sorry for the many lost opportunities for our seniors.”