No caps and gowns. No processionals. No turning of tassels. No listening to the sounds of friends, family, and classmates cheering, as their names are being called, when they walk across the stage. This is the reality of the graduating class of 2020. While this time of year is typically reserved for celebrations, parties, and overall gatherings of loved ones, students across the country were left with feelings of disappointment and lack of closure upon hearing the news of their commencement ceremonies being canceled due to COVID-19. Not wanting students to feel cheated out of their special moment, celebrities, schools, and organizations have decided to honor this special class, by still holding graduations, but only virtually.
On Saturday, May 2nd, Chase hosted their #ShowMeYourWalk commencement ceremony. The virtual event that was held on social platforms, Facebook and YouTube, featured encouraging messages from Kevin Hart, Serena Williams, and Stephen Curry while displaying various videos of students doing their best walks. The virtual graduation ended with Hart, Williams, and Curry asking students to continue the celebration by posting videos of them walking to their social media accounts, using the hashtag #ShowMeYourWalk and tagging Chase.
Facebook and Instagram will also honor this year’s high school and college graduating class, with a virtual ceremony to be broadcast via Facebook Watch. The celebration, with commencement addresses by Oprah Winfrey, Lil Nas X, and Simone Biles, will take place on Friday, May 15th at 11 AM PT/2 PM ET. Graduates will also be treated to a performance by Miley Cyrus of her song, “The Climb.” Photo and video montages of the class of 2020, along with special messages from their principles and deans, will be displayed throughout the ceremony, as well as highlights to be posted on Instagram. The graduation festivities will kick-off on Monday, May 11th, with daily spotlights of senior moments on Instagram. Visit Facebook for more information.
Saturday, May 16th, will hold two different commencement ceremonies. The first, being a National HBCU Commencement Celebration, hosted by Essence Studios. Organized by Paul Quinn College President, Dr. Michael J. Sorrell, Howard University, The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and The United Negro College Fund, this live event will feature celebrity hosts, musical performances, and profiles of HBCU students. JPMorgan Chase, Essence, and the NBA will also serve as supporters of this graduation that will not only celebrate this year’s graduating class of HBCU students but also raise money for their respective schools. More information can be found on Essence’s website.
The second virtual ceremony held on May 16th will be hosted by LeBron James and take place at 8 PM ET. The commercial-free, hour-long broadcast will be shown on networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, as well as social media platforms, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, PeopleTV, and Complex. Honoring the high school graduating class of 2020, this ceremony will have participation from Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe, Pharrell Williams, H.E.R., and a host of actors, musicians, athletes, and activists. Students are asked to post photos and videos onto their social media platforms using the hashtag #GraduateTogether for the opportunity to be featured during the celebration.
Chicago will hold its first-ever citywide, virtual graduation celebration in mid-June. Announced via Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s TikTok, the event will honor all high school seniors in the city, with a special commencement address from Oprah Winfrey. Details of the exact date and time have yet to be released, but the event promises to have special speeches, performances, and presentations by select students.
For those wanting to host virtual celebrations of their own, educational recognition and achievement products company, Herff Jones, will be providing a platform to assist in celebrating high school graduates. Partnering with StageClip and MarchingOrder, their platform promises to give a more personalized experience complete with graduate processions, virtual gatherings, and customized content. For more information, visit the Herff Jones website.
While this year’s graduation season may not look anything like what the graduating class of 2020 had in mind, thanks to the generous outpouring of support, it will undoubtedly be the most memorable.