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Commencement 2024: Representing three classes of graduates

As a 2020 graduate, I was robbed of a proper graduation.

Instead of gathering together with my graduating class, I wore my cap and gown and walked around the auditorium of my high school alone.

Socially distanced from other students and staff, my parents and I snapped a photo with my empty diploma cover and returned to the car.

It took about 20 minutes and that was it. That was my high school graduation. Four years of hard work for pretty much nothing.

It was disappointing, but life could only go on.

The optimist in me tried not to care, reasoning with the loss by saying things like “A real graduation would have taken forever!” or “Do you know how hot it would’ve been on that football field?”

Despite this reasoning, it was still not enough to fill the void that a proper graduation would have.

Graduation is a tradition and to walk away from high school without that experience felt disheartening.

This is why this year’s commencement ceremony is that much more special to me.

It means more than usual to the students who have never had the chance to walk, despite doing everything that they could to get there.

This commencement means more to the families who never had the opportunity to cheer from the sidelines, knowing how much their loved ones have gone through to reach this point and to the staff who have not had the chance to formally recognize the students they mentored over the years.

This year’s commencement ceremony gives students one last chance to be with their school and individual departments. It is the last time most of us will see each other; peers and professors.

Last year, seniors were not allowed to walk across the stage or have their names read aloud for graduation. This upset many students and made them feel cheated out of what should have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Not only is this commencement the first time that the class of 2020 will get to walk across a stage, but it is also the first proper commencement ceremony that Long Beach State students will have the opportunity to participate in since the COVID-19 pandemic.

This commencement ceremony is for all of us; last year’s graduates, the class of 2020 and the class of 2024.

We as students have earned the right to walk on stage and make our family, friends and most importantly, ourselves, proud.

I am happy to say that finally, I will know how it feels to hear my name and walk across the stage.

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