Today should have marked high school graduation for thousands of Chicago Public Schools seniors. However, like so many of our rites of passage graduation traditionally involves crowds so like other cities around the country Chicago had to figure out what graduation looks like in a pandemic.
They weren’t quite as creative as North Conway, NH where Kennett High School seniors were honored individually at the top of Mt. Cranmore, a ski resort which donated the space because it allowed for graduates to be honored with their guests in a socially distant way:
Once each student reaches the summit of Cranmore, he or she will stop at the east bowl, be announced by Carpenter, presented with their diplomas, have a photograph taken and be acknowledged by Superintendent Kevin Richard and Conway School Board Chairman Joe Lentini, then proceed to the Meister Hut, where another photo will be taken on the ledges. Then the student and his or her guests will head back down the mountain.
Okay, so Chicagoans might not have a ski resort in their back yard, but the city called on its serious star power to televise a graduation ceremony for 26,000 seniors that included a key note address by Oprah, and appearances from other celebrities and sports stars including Cubs stars Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber:
Unfortunately, there is no line up or mountain top that can make up for a traditional graduation ceremony as these college seniors told the Chicago Sun Times:
Twin sisters Megan and Emma Gallian, also seniors at Lane Tech, are also frustrated by the lack of information and the possibility the pinnacle event of their high school careers will get short shrift.
“It feels like everything this year has just been pushed aside,” Emma Gallian said.
Both are pushing for it to be postponed long enough so it can be held in person, saying they have been looking forward to celebrating with family and friends for years.
“At Lane, everything is really rigorous,” Megan added. “When I was pulling all nighters ... I had always looked forward to just having that moment at the end.”
So it really isn’t any surprise that there are signs - literally - all over the neighborhood as families try to honor their 2020 graduates. I saw this family at Inter-American joyously taking graduation pictures two weeks ago:
Or more commonly, these signs congratulating graduates and teachers on the end of the school year that have popped up all over the city:
It is no cap and gown ceremony. Some schools are still trying to plan creative ways to celebrate graduates in person via drive thru and other ceremonies, but one thing is certain: the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed graduation in 2020.