“Senior Celebration” to replace traditional Baccalaureate

Sophia Yang and Anna Feng

As a result of issues with funding and venue availability, this year’s Baccalaureate ceremony will instead be a “Senior Celebration” during school on May 27 on the Palo Alto High School Quad.

According to Student Activities Director Steven Gallagher, Baccalaureate was an event with many talent acts, including performances from the school’s choir and guest speakers, with the intent of celebrating the senior class as a whole rather than each student individually. In recent years, Baccalaureate was at Cupertino’s Flint Center, which is no longer open. 

“To find another venue was going to be difficult cost-wise and when you have new leadership there are new visions on what is possible,” Gallagher said. “Between graduation and a Baccalaureate, the price was getting really big.”

Gallagher said Baccalaureate was canceled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the pandemic has posed numerous challenges, it has also allowed events such as Baccalaureate to be viewed through a new lens. 

Students gather on the Palo Alto High School Quad during lunch on Friday. According to Principal Brent Kline, the Senior Celebration will be on the Quad, which will allow other grades, not just seniors, to attend. “I think the students that need to be here to see and celebrate the accomplishments of our seniors are the 11th graders, the 10th graders, ninth graders and our parents, staff and community, so I couldn’t think of any better place to have it than the Quad.” (Photo: Anna Feng)

“With COVID-19, you have an opportunity to look at things in a different way and to try out new things,” Gallagher said, “We’ve all felt that and see how it works and how we can improve in the future.”

According to Principal Brent Kline, creating a new Senior Celebration at Paly will also allow underclassmen to celebrate the senior class. 

“The best thing that we could do as a school is showcasing the achievements of our senior class to those that will soon be seniors,” Kline said. “It [the Senior Celebration] is all about providing our current student body a chance to honor and celebrate our seniors along with the senior class.”

Kline also cited student attendance as a reason for changing the location of Baccalaureate. 

“It [the former ceremony] is also not inclusive in terms of not all kids went or were able to go since it would be all the way in San Jose, and students would have to travel with their families to get there,” Kline said. “So, we thought we would bring the best of Baccalaureate, which is the celebration of our senior class, here, to Paly.”

Gallagher said the Senior Celebration will continue the tradition of showcasing senior talent and speakers. 

“We’ll have auditions a week or two weeks before for the talent but also for speakers for both graduation in the Senior Celebration,” Gallagher said.

Senior Anisha Gandhi said she plans to attend the Senior Celebration because it will still have activities similar to those held at Baccalaureate. 

“I feel like it is mostly the name that changed and the actual events will not be too different from a Baccalaureate,” Gandhi said. “I think the name change does not really matter as long as the event still happens.”

According to senior Arundhati Parikh, she is looking forward to the events of the Senior Celebration.

I love all senior events because so much of senior year is grinding, and so I appreciate every chance I get to celebrate my accomplishments over these last few years,” Parikh said. “I am grateful that we get an event beyond the graduation ceremony.”

Gallagher said compared to Baccalaureate, it will be informal, with the focus primarily on the accomplishments of the senior class.

“Seniors are not going to need to wear their gowns,” Gallagher said. “It’s much more casual, but the opportunity to celebrate as a class, their accomplishments and their time together during their years here in Palo Alto Unified [School District].”