By: Quinton Allen, CCPS Communications Specialist
“It would definitely be super awesome if we were able to walk across the stage,” Barron Collier High (BCH) senior Gene Michal Goin excitedly stated immediately after taking his cap and gown pictures on the morning of May 7. While social distancing, students returned to campus for a brief moment, dressed in cap and gown, to take their photos for the upcoming virtual commencement. These are emotional, exciting, and reflective times. “What I will miss the most are the pep rallies! They were always full of energy and always entertaining,” fellow classmate Javier Gutierrez added. BCH senior Brooke Goodman said, “I’ll definitely miss going to the baseball games my sophomore and junior years, they were so much fun!” Gene, Javier, and Brooke now look ahead as they – along with the rest of their Senior Class – transition from an unprecedented spring to a first-of-its-kind graduation.
Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) is pursuing and planning multiple ways to celebrate and honor the Class of 2020. The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has forced a modification to the traditional commencement ceremony; however, all the District’s high schools will participate in their own virtual graduation program. These videos are a collaboration between CCPS and Naples-based production company Guerilla Media. On June 3, at a designated time for each high school, students, family members, and friends will hear every graduate’s name read aloud and see each student
dressed in their cap and gown. Viewers watching the virtual stream will experience musical performances and speeches from student leaders, CCPS administrators, and School Board Members. “This virtual graduation allows everyone to be part of the graduation. I’m really happy about it,” says CCPS Superintendent, Dr. Kamela Patton. Students, parents, extended family, and guests will be able to view the Class of 2020 Virtual Commencement by going to collierschools.com/graduation2020. “It’s really great that the kids will have a real graduation with their photos shown,” Dr. Patton added.
CCPS hopes on July 24 to be able to reunite each high school’s entire graduating class together for an in-person ceremony if guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allows for a group gathering. Dr. Patton and District leaders understand the importance of graduates walking across the stage and want to provide that experience. If the July event does not occur, each high school will offer the opportunity for the Class of 2020 to reunite and celebrate in December (or later depending on CDC guidelines at that time). Think of this as the Class of 2020’s first reunion! “These plans along with the production of the virtual graduation make something that’s difficult, better for our kids,” Dr. Patton added.
“It was a blessing to come to school and laugh with my friends every day,” Gene said. He already misses the comradery. Rest assured, the District will share details about these future commencement options using all of its communication methods, which is welcome news to the seniors. Just the thought of getting together again with her classmates made Brooke very excited, “It would be so cool if we were allowed to walk on stage.” In a time of uncertainty, we know weeks of planning and video production will allow Commencement 2020 to connect students, family members, and familiar faces from students’ academic journey through CCPS. Javier added while standing outside of a place that became his home away from home, “I’ll miss the interaction with everyone, I really enjoyed making new friends!”