Students nix digital graduation ceremony, aim to be “eventually together”

Olivia Ramberg-Gomez, Culture Editor

After student responses heavily rejected the idea of a virtual graduation ceremony, Palo Alto High School’s Associated Student Body and Gunn High School’s Student Executive Council, along with both principals and Supt. Don Austin decided that there would be no virtual ceremony planned for June.

After receiving over 200 responses from seniors via Google Form, Paly and Gunn admin, district officials, and student leaders discussed alternative options for a graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 in a meeting that took place on Wednesday and officially decided to postpone the traditional ceremony. Most students rejected the idea of a virtual graduation, according to Senior Class President Frida Rivera. “We saw that the most common response was that students wanted to postpone graduation and were very opposed to having a Zoom or virtual graduation ceremony,” Rivera stated. Graphic by Margaret Li

In an online meeting on Wednesday, the possible alternatives to a traditional graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 were discussed. According to Paly Senior Class President Frida Rivera, Paly ASB and Gunn SEC met with both schools’ student activities directors, Matt Hall and Lisa Hall, Paly Principal Adam Paulson, Gunn Principal Kathleen Laurence, Asst. Supt. Ed Services Sharon Ofek and Austin to discuss these options. 

Five days before the meeting took place, a Google Form was sent out to seniors via Schoology and social media, allowing them to submit alternative ideas for a ceremony and asking them if they would be interested in a virtual graduation. Over 200 responses were recorded from the survey, according to a social media post from Hall. 

“I spent a few days chatting with a couple of students about possible alternatives to graduation,” Rivera stated over a text message to The Paly Voice. “After taking a look at the responses during our meeting on Wednesday, we saw that the most common response was that students wanted to postpone graduation and were very opposed to having a Zoom or virtual graduation ceremony.”

Senior Leanna Colanino is one of the many students opposed to celebrating graduation online.

“I would rather wait until everything is safe, even if it means it won’t be until December,” Colanino stated over a text message. “Doing it [graduation] online, in my opinion, would take all of the meaning out of it. I think it’s important for us to come together one last time as a class and graduate together, not over a screen.”

All of the other traditional graduation events that occur the week leading up to the ceremony, such as Baccalaureate and the senior picnic, will no longer take place due to social distancing policies. Fortunately, seniors can look forward to an online version of the traditional paper toss that takes place on the last day of school. 

“I’m planning to have a zoom on the last day of school so that Paly seniors can still participate in this tradition and get to have their last day of school countdown,” Rivera stated. 

Colanino said she likes the idea of the virtual paper toss in place of the real one.

“Of course, it [the virtual paper toss] won’t make up for the actual one, and I don’t think it’s likely for many people to participate in, but I think that the thought of it is what counts the most and it’s really nice of her [Rivera] to come up with the idea,” Colanino stated.