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Amid the pandemic, IU's seniors find new ways to celebrate graduation


A group of friends play a game over Zoom to celebrate graduating seniors. 2020 graduates are finding new ways to celebrate the end of their college careers while graduation ceremonies are placed on hold and canceled due to COVID-19. Photo illustration by Sarah Zygmuntowski

With both individual school and campus graduation ceremonies postponed, seniors are getting creative to celebrate commencement this year.

Senior Kayla Curry is a first-generation college student graduating from the Kelley School of Business with a degree in management. She said not being able to celebrate this accomplishment with her family and friends is a real let down. 

“This is a moment that I’ve looked forward to,” Curry said. “Even now I still don’t know when graduation ceremonies will be, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to walk or not. I’m calmer about it now, but I was definitely angry at first.”

Some students are celebrating with their organizations or cultural centers. Curry wanted to attend Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center's Black Congratulatory Ceremony and had plans to celebrate with her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. 

Curry said she's seen a lot of IU graduation ceremonies because she works at the auditorium.

"I’ve seen the graduation ceremonies and heard all the speeches for the last three years, so I was really looking forward to actually walking across the stage like I see people do every year,” Curry said.

Her sorority has a senior sendoff every year, but this year's will be virtual. The younger members will create games for the graduates to play, present slide shows depicting the graduates' accomplishments and chip in to buy individualized gifts for the grads.

Graduating from college is a milestone many families look forward to celebrating with their graduates. However, given the COVID-19 pandemic, some are not in a celebratory mood. 

“I don’t really want to celebrate it now, because I feel like a lot of the magic of graduation is gone, especially with the Kelley ceremony being cancelled,” senior Estefani Alcaraz-Quevedo said.

Alcaraz-Quevedo is graduating from the business school with a degree in finance. She said she might take pictures in her cap and gown in the future. 

“I’m just going to use the gown to take pictures with my family,” she said. “It's what I did in high school and it's probably what my family will want to do.”

Senior Jake Dufinetz is graduating from the business school with a degree in information systems and business analytics. To celebrate, he and a few friends decided to put together a mock graduation ceremony in his backyard. He said the ceremony would include cheap caps and gowns, some help from siblings and possibly even unofficial grade transcripts to determine a valedictorian. 

“My friend actually came up with the idea to have our own little graduation ceremony this summer,” Dufinetz said. “Family members of the graduates would come too; my older sister wants to be the dean and my friend's sister wants to be the guest speaker.” 

Dufinetz said the event won’t replace not being to participate in Bloomington senior traditions.

Events such as the Delta’s senior sendoff and Little 500 are some of the annual events normally encapsulated within graduation season. Dufintez said it’s annual events like these that seniors are really heartbroken over. 

“The week after finals seniors typically stay around having my last week in Bloomington with no classes or finals,” Dufinetz said. “But now people are back in their hometowns, so I don’t get to have that time with them.”

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