A typical rite of passage each spring for high school seniors, graduation ceremonies this year have taken on unique forms in light of limitations due to COVID-19. As such, high schools across Orange County have come up with various solutions to recognize their graduates and celebrate this significant accomplishment, ranging from drive-thru parades, to drive-in ceremonies, to online celebrations.
With some careful planning, Rosary Academy was able to hold an in-person graduation ceremony last month for the Royal’s Class of 2020.
The ceremony took place in its traditional location on the campus lawn, with a revised configuration to allow for social distancing.
An event that typically sees close to 1,000 people in attendance, graduates were limited to only their parents as in-person guests this year, but the school provided a livestream of the ceremony for other family members and friends to experience.
There were 76 graduates who participated in the July 17 celebration, not including a few Royals who had returned to their home countries or had already left the area due to United States military commissioning.
Each attendee was screened prior to entry, and all guests were required to wear face coverings, including the graduates, who donned matching Rosary-themed masks. Photos were not allowed pre- or post-ceremony, but the school staff set up decorations in the week preceding the event, allowing the seniors and their families to take photos at three different backdrop areas during prearranged time slots.
The ceremony itself was limited in length but did feature three of the Class of 2020’s top graduates as speakers. Valedictorian Kloey Reyes, along with salutatorians Bryn Boznanski and Julia Toth, addressed their fellow classmates, with sanitization of the podium taking place in between speeches.
In lieu of the traditional handshake and diploma presentation, each senior walked across the stage to pick up her diploma from a designated table.
“We’re basically trying to get the students in and out, as quickly and with the least amount of contact as possible,” said Rosary Academy Director of Activities Nicola Huerta.
Despite all of the revisions and accommodations made to meet local safety requirements, the ceremony did feature one of the most memorable traditions of a Rosary Academy graduation – the procession of the graduates from the second story of the campus down to the lawn, clad in all white caps and gowns, each carrying a single red rose.
Additionally, the night prior to the event featured the Baccalaureate Mass, where Bishop Vann was in attendance. The Mass, which was also available through a livestream, concluded with Senior Awards, where students received recognition for outstanding achievement in a variety of areas.
“It’s a special way where they can all come together, as a class, one last time, to celebrate one another,” said Huerta.
While graduation in 2020 may not have looked like years past, this ceremony took on special meaning for the graduates and their families. Grateful for the chance to gather in person to celebrate, the Rosary community was patient and supportive as the school worked tirelessly to give the seniors the memorable send-off they deserved.
“I think our community is so ecstatic that we are having this for them,” says Huerta. “They feel blessed that we are still having an actual in-person event. There’s been so many disappointments for this year, so for them to be able to at least have this ceremony, it’s kind of a sense of closure for them. It’s a tradition for every school, but for Rosary, it’s a very special moment.”