Reclaiming graduation: My story

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, April 8, 2020

On April 4, East Tennessee State University’s President Brian Noland announced the difficult decision to postpone the Spring Commencement Ceremony and related activities for this academic school year in the wake of COVID-19. A virtual graduation ceremony is being planned and invitation to participate in the December graduation has also been extended.
For me, an intern/writer at the Elizabethton Star and a senior at the university, I felt heartbroken initially, as family and I had been anticipating such a day when I walked across the stage to get my degrees. In my sadness, however, I began to think back to all my memories in college, and smiled.
On May 9, 2020, I will become an alumni of ETSU, I will have my degrees in Journalism and English. COVID-19 will not take that away from me.
I can still recall my first day of college. I was 18, and terrified. Being a Unaka High School graduate, I longed for the one hallway and smaller student population. Now, approaching 23, I miss the crowded campus I spent the last five years on. I’m proud of my growth.
As those memories made me smile more and more, from my friends to my professors, working for the East Tennessean and meeting amazing people, I realized that was truly what mattered most. My five years were not being taken away because I couldn’t walk across a stage next month, it had no control over my accomplishments.
On my graduation day, I will still smile and be proud of my accomplishments. I am going to spend the day with my family (abiding by social distancing), seeing a couple in person, with others through FaceTime and calling. I will wear jeans, a shirt from school and my graduation cap from Unaka (I did not go to get my cap and gown on time as I waited until the virus was in full swing). I will celebrate that day and make it my own, as best as I can, in celebration of what I have achieved.
My advice to high school seniors, and even college seniors, is to make your graduation days your own, if they too end up postponed. It will still be your day, and no one, not even COVID-19, can take your accomplishments away from you.
Despite the obstacles and uncertainty of when things will settle down, I remain proud to be a member of the Class of 2020. We did it!

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