After a school year of disappointment, the Class of 2021 finally had something go their way. On June 2, seniors at Santa Clara High School walked onto the school’s football field and received their diplomas in front of family members and friends.
Just a few hours later and a few miles away, seniors gathered at Wilcox High School (WHS) to do the same. Students at both schools say they were shocked and happy to hear that they would be allowed to have in-person graduation ceremonies after a year of distance learning.
“I was actually pretty excited, honestly, because I was like, ‘Man, all those four, long, hard years of schoolwork.’ I was like, ‘It was worth it. Definitely,’” said Bryan Escorza, WHS Class of 2021. “With the whole COVID going on I’m actually glad that we were actually able to attend graduation.”
“I was very excited that I would be able to walk with my friends and everything,” said Mariah, WHS Class of 2021.
Family members were feeling just as much emotion.
“When I found out she was going to walk I was actually crying because I didn’t think it was going to happen. She’s done so well. I’m so proud of her,” said Mariah’s mother, Jennifer.
“I am ecstatic. I’m so proud of her,” said grandmother Kathy.
“I’m excited,” said Youeb, who was there to see her son walk across the Wilcox graduation stage. “It’s been a tough year since COVID. We’ve been through a lot this year. [I’m] excited that he’s graduating this year; going off to college.”
Students were also well aware that they were lucky to have something that the Class of 2020 missed out on.
“At least we got the opportunity in contrast to the seniors last year. It was all online. I’m glad we actually get to physically graduate,” said Sara Gaona, WHS Class of 2021.
“It’s nice to hear that we are going to have an in-person graduation compared to last year where they, unfortunately, we’re not able to get one,” said Marina McNeil-Vivanco, WHS Class of 2021.
Both WHS and SCHS implemented a ticketing system for their graduation ceremonies to make sure they stayed within county health guidelines. At Wilcox, this was the first time the school used a ticketing system. Graduates were limited to two tickets apiece, but they made the best of the situation.
“I get to bring my mom and my dad. They only let us have two invitees, but that’s the only two people I needed. They supported me all the way so I’m really grateful,” said Alejandro Lopez, WHS Class of 2021.
For some family members, no ticket just meant they had to get creative. Groups gathered in the Wilcox parking lot with computers and speakers to live stream of the graduation ceremony. Others lined the fence along the football field to get a glimpse of the graduates.
Wilcox Principal Kristin Gonzalez says things went well despite a few hiccups along the way and she’s happy with the end result.
“It was a wonderful event. I am so proud of our graduates and all they have accomplished. They made it to the finish line. It was no easy task, but they made it,” said Gonzalez. “The energy at graduation was incredible. There were so many emotions. The graduates were full of joy. The families were beaming with pride.”