Past graduates in their caps and gowns from Vincent Memorial Catholic (from left), Holtville, Calexico, and Central Union high schools are shown. After a year when in-person commencement ceremonies across the county were cancelled due to COVID-19, seniors are gearing up to walk in their live graduation ceremonies. | FILE PHOTO ILLUSTRATION

Hallelujah! Calexico, Other Valley Seniors Will Walk for Graduation

IMPERIAL COUNTY — Although there are lots of limitation in place — hallelujah — the class of 2021 will have its graduation ceremony live and in person, and with guests.

Calexico High seniors celebrate their graduation during commencement activities held before COVID-19 cancelled traditional graduation ceremonies in 2020. | FILE PHOTO

When COVID-19 disrupted the lives of most of the world in 2020, some of the fallout was to our students, especially the senior class that lost key moments in the high school experience, chief among them, the traditional graduation ceremony.

Fortunately, for this year’s seniors, there is some semblance of normalcy returning.

“Our students and families have missed out on so many experiences and milestone moments over the past year. Having the opportunity to return to graduation ceremonies and other celebrations, despite current limitations, is exciting and welcomed by all,” said Dr. Todd Finnell, Imperial County Superintendent of Schools, in an emailed statement to this newspaper.

“Our students, their families, and the entire education community have a renewed appreciation for these moments that form such important lifelong memories,” Finnell continued.

For the Valley’s largest graduating class, which is about 619 seniors this year, a return to in-person commencement ceremonies will require splitting the graduation in two parts. Calexico High School has tentatively scheduled its graduation on June 10 and June 11.

“Calexico Unified School District is currently organizing the high school graduation. All indoor and outdoor venue protocols provided by the State of California COVID Guidelines will be followed,” the district stated in an email. “There is currently a 33 percent capacity limit to all participants; this number includes family members and students.”

Vincent Memorial Catholic High seniors take part in their graduation Mass in Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Calexico during ceremonies held before COVID-19 cancelled traditional events in 2020. | FILE PHOTO

Each ceremony will start at 7:30 p.m. at Ward Field, where each student will receive two tickets each, according to the district.

Calexico’s Aurora High School, with its much smaller class, will have also commencement ceremonies at Ward Field on June 8. However, Principal John Moreno said because Ward Field can seat 2,500 people, his students will be awarded four tickets each.

Vincent Memorial Catholic High in Calexico will be hosting its graduation at 10 a.m. May 28 at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church during the annual graduation Mass. Attendance is limited to the graduating seniors’ parents.

The Holtville High School class of 2021 will graduate at 7 p.m. June 3 on Birger Field, the high school’s football stadium. Tickets to attend the event are being limited to two for each graduating senior’s immediate household only.

The graduation event will also be livestreamed on the high school’s Facebook page.

For Imperial High School, “graduation is scheduled for June 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Shimamoto-Simpson stadium and scheduled to be in person with limited seating to abide by health protocols due to COVID-19. Each graduate will get two tickets and the event will be livestreamed on our website,” Imperial Unified Superintendent Bryan Thomason wrote in an email. 

Both Central Union and Southwest high schools will be hosting their graduation ceremonies at 7 p.m. June 2 at their respective stadiums.

Seating is limited to two tickets per graduating senior. The graduation ceremony will also be livestreamed on the high schools’ websites with the help of the Conveyor Group, said Central Union High School District Superintendent Ward Andrus.

Central Union High seniors celebrate their graduation during commencement activities held before COVID-19 cancelled traditional graduation ceremonies in 2020. | FILE PHOTO —

While the high school’s have returned to something close to traditional, the local colleges are still approaching commencement ceremonies with extra caution.

On Monday, May 17, San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus in Calexico will be having graduation ceremonies for its class of 2021 in what the university is calling “CARmencement 2021” at 5 p.m. in the campus parking lot. The class of 2020 will get its turn on Tuesday evening, May 18, at 5:30 p.m. in the same location.

The event is not for the public; only for students and what friends or family members can legally (seat belted) fit in one car per graduate, according to an email from Victor Nava of the university’s relations and development department.

Still, Nava stated there will be the opportunity for the public and other family and friends to watch a livestream of the events on the campus’ website

Nava also wanted to make certain participating students are aware of the process and provided a video link on how the CARmencement will work:

For Imperial Valley College, the campus is going the virtual route again this year.

IVC will be partnering with a production company named Full Measure to host a drive-through yet virtual commencement at 8:30 a.m. June 12, according to college spokesperson Elizabeth Espinoza.

Holtville High seniors celebrate their graduation during commencement activities held before COVID-19 cancelled traditional graduation ceremonies in 2020. | FILE PHOTO

“In light of current challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Imperial Valley College believes virtual commencement is the best option at this time. Considering the current tiers that surround the Imperial Valley, IVC intends to hold a drive-through commencement, if current health conditions permit,” according to a message sent to students and staff and shared by Espinoza.

“The goal is to celebrate graduates in the safest and most meaningful way possible,” the message continues.

Graduates will apparently be contacted by Full Measure with directions on how student information will be collected prior to the virtual commencement.

(This story was updated on Friday, May 14, with additional information at SDSU-IV’s CARmencement ceremonies.)

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