A DIFFERENT LOOK FOR GRADUATION

Marina Makropoulos

 

Under the lights of George Gattas Memorial Stadium, Prospect’s class of ‘21 will be seated 6 feet apart in white chairs above the green turf. 

When students walk up to receive their diploma from either District 214 Superintendent Dr. David R. Schuler or D214 Vice President William J. Dussling, the usual custom of a congratulatory handshake will not happen. 

‘21 PHS graduates will get the chance to celebrate their successes this Wednesday, May 19, unlike the class of ‘20, which was honored by a virtual commencement ceremony due to COVID-19. 

Despite the ceremony this May being held in-person, it will be a different look from previous years, with various limitations placed. And if it rains, the plan is to have it the following day: May 20. 

“I think it’ll be a great way to end this year,” Chris Cirrincione, World Language teacher and ASB sponsor said. “We’ve had a lot of troubles, and this year, to me, is the year of really being flexible with different regulations [and] health restrictions. And, I think, finally, the fact that we’re able to have it in-person, on the field, and bring some normalcy and positive end to their high school experience.”

Starting a new tradition, the class of ‘21 will be having graduation at night, based on a decision made two years ago for both last and this year’s ceremonies to take place on a weeknight, according to Cirrincione, however, it was not able to happen last year. 

The event will be live-streamed and accessed through a vimeo link on the PHS website with the help of Frank Mirandola, Assistant Principal of Student Activities and Music. 

Those who attend will get the chance to experience a multimedia event, with spotlight effects, a musical performance by PHS Madrigal Singers in combination with the lights, video screens and live streaming.

Because of the change in time of day, a spotlight ceremony can take place, which is usually a full school awards assembly during the day where medallions are given out to accomplished seniors. 

Jen Troiano, Director of Choral Activities and graduation sponsor said this year will be of a similar nature to what has been seen in the past. Graduates will walk down the aisles on the sides of the field, and will have the chance to remove their masks and take a picture in front of the step and repeat backgrounds while holding a diploma. 

After seniors have received their diplomas there will be a second photo opportunity with Principal Greg Minter. Both Troiano and Mirandola believe that this year’s graduation will be just as special because it is simply about celebrating alongside friends and family. 

“Seniors only graduate once from high school, and so you think that there’s this ceremony that always happens a certain way,” Troiano said. “But it’s always different a little bit in it’s own way, because it’s different kids [and] a different time.”

The difference in this year is that due to COVID-19 regulations, each student is allowed to bring up to four guests. 

Illinois has just recently entered the bridge phase, which means that 60% of the total 3,600 people that George Gattas can hold will be allowed to attend; this is about 2,160 people.

Families will choose seats on a first come first serve basis on both sides of the bleachers as well as in pods of four on black chairs on the track behind the graduates. 

Senior Ella Brennan, who has five other members in her family, says her family was conflicted to decide who would get to watch her graduation. They ended up deciding to bring both her parents and her two grandmothers, so her three younger sisters will be live-streaming the event and no one has to be left out. 

Brennan wishes all of her family members could attend, but thinks that four people is generous because she thought only two would be allowed. 

“I feel like graduating high school is always an experience people remember,” Brennan said. “And I feel like a ceremony will be really fun and just a good way to wrap up the year.” 

The class of ‘20, however, was rewarded in a different method. They had a drive through parade that started a few blocks down from PHS where students were able to decorate their cars and drive through circle drive; teachers were also standing apart from each other, waving and talking to people.

The actual ceremony itself was an online event. 2020 graduate Ryan Kupperman said an online graduation was a very upsetting thing to deal with because it was an experience he had been hearing about for four years and was told everyone got to do it. 

“There’s something about being able to experience everything as a senior class together, while also just being able to kinda look your teachers in the eyes, more directly instead of just passing them by in a car,” Kupperman said. 

Kupperman thinks the biggest factor he missed out on his senior year was being together with everyone, which was the one thing that couldn’t be done, but he appreciates what administrators and teachers came up with and thought it was creative. 

“I’m just picturing the scene with everyone out on the field, experiencing the graduation all at once, being able to just kind of soak it in, between the class but also I guess with family on the bleachers,” Kupperman said. 

Cirrincione thinks that Kupperman’s class probably felt disappointed because they had worked four years to get to that point. 

“I think it lacked because they were unable to celebrate with their friends, the people that they’ve grown up with, as well as all of their teachers and coaches and sponsors and advisors, who have been here along the way with them,” Cirrincione said.

The choir department contributed to the online ceremony by providing a recording of the national anthem, and sang “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and the Heart, which has been sung for the past 17 years that Troiano has been at PHS; she said it was bittersweet. The singers’ faces were put next to each other in video squares during the ceremony. 

“I just really enjoy seeing graduation and seeing my seniors at graduation, and you know just to watch them is kind of like being a fly on the wall,” Troiano said. “Just seeing them in their element with their family and their friends and stuff like that. So, I think I miss that, but I was pleased that we were able to pull off the videos.” 

For the class of ‘21, Kupperman hopes that their in-person graduation will make them feel like they’ve received the cap to their time at a Prospect that he never had.

Kupperman said if he were in their position right now, he, similar to Brennan, would not be too bothered if his whole extended family was not there. 

Troiano hopes the seniors know that everyone understands that this year has been almost even more tough on them than last year’s seniors because they missed part of their junior year as well as a lot of their senior year. 

“I just hope everyone enjoys it and just kind of looks around and takes those mental pictures,” Troiano said. “I mean I still remember the day I graduated 30 years ago, and I told myself I was gonna take a mental picture of what the sky looked like, and I just hope that the seniors come away with some really fun mental pictures, like whether it’s the singing, or whether it’s the speakers, or whether it’s the hat toss at the end.” 

Graduation will be on May 19 at 8 p.m. at George Gattas.