SAN DIEGO — Graduation day is the pinnacle of a student's life, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, ceremonies were either canceled or altered in a big way. San Diego State held a "virtual commencement" for its nearly 10,000 graduates and Cal State San Marcos held a drive-by parade for graduates.
San Diego State President Adela de la Torre began the university’s live streamed graduation ceremony with these words: "Class of 2020, today we honor your academic achievements."
Calling it a COVID-19 altered commencement, the online virtual ceremony isn't what graduates of San Diego State University originally had in mind.
"I am certain this isn't how we envisioned our graduation day, but the thing about us, the class of 2020, is that our resilience has been and continues to be stronger than our circumstances,” said San Diego State Associated Students President Christian Onwuka.
The live streamed occasion, where over 31,000 tuned in, lasted just half an hour, filled with pre-taped remarks from Aztec faculty and graduates, including the billionaire founder of Rockstar Energy Drink, Russell Weiner.
In North San Diego County, Cal State University San Marcos held a Drive-by Graduation Parade for its students filled with signs and family in their cars.
"For us to even have the opportunity to parade through our campus for one more time, considering no one's been here for a couple months at this point, is phenomenal for us,” said CSU San Marcos graduating senior Kevin Benitez.
Benitez said the day was emotional for him since “he had been waiting for the moment all of his life, and after this point in time, we will branch out going into our own lives."
Benitez was excited to be in the parade with his roommate, classmate, and best friend since sixth grade, Mikayla Meneses.
“We've been friends for the past 10 years so just to celebrate our friendships and achievements together is just a great way to go out,” said Meneses, also a recent CSU graduate.
It was a bittersweet moment for campus leaders as well.
"So disappointing that we couldn't celebrate commencement and it's my first year here, so it would've been my first commencement,” said Cal State San Marcos President Ellen Neufeldt.
But despite this unprecedented car-style commencement, a future ceremony will happen for the graduates at a later date. “The virus is determining our timeline, so I can’t predict exactly when it will be, but we're going to give these graduates an opportunity to be part of a commencement one way or another,” Neufeldt said.
There were big changes for high school graduations too. In Northern California, at Redwood Christian High School, each student got a personal, 10-minute graduation in the school gym, where their family got to hand them a disinfected diploma.