The Story Behind a Petition to Hold College Commencement in Person, Despite COVID-19


Raquel Perez is incomes her affiliate diploma in audio engineering this spring. It’s a milestone many semesters in the making. The 32-year-old has spent the final 5 years pursuing a diploma at Houston Community College, balancing courses with paid work and elevating her seven youngsters.

Propelling her ahead by way of all of that effort was her imaginative and prescient of the day she’d stroll throughout the graduation stage and settle for her diploma.

So studying that her faculty didn’t plan to host a commencement ceremony due to COVID-19 considerations?

“It’s a punch in the gut,” she says. “It’s not acceptable to me.”

A canceled commencement might seem to be simply one other lacking second in a lengthy, disappointing 12 months of disaster. But for Perez, the promise of graduation provides up to way more than cheers and tears and robes and mortarboards. It’s a ceremony of passage worthy of its title, signifying the beginning of a new life for her and her household.

The deep which means commencement day holds for college kids like Perez is one thing she thinks faculty leaders ought to consider once they’re weighing well being dangers and logistics this spring. That’s why she began a petition in favor of holding a ceremony that people can physically attend as a substitute of the online version her faculty at present has deliberate. It’s one among several petitions circulating among students across the country who hope to push their schools to supply some form of occasion they’ll expertise in particular person—with all of the pomp and circumstance they’ve been relying on.

Raquel Perez and her household. Courtesy of Perez.

It’s been a exhausting 12 months of largely on-line studying for Perez. Instead of having the ability to use the audio labs on campus, she says she had to purchase her personal gear and arrange a studio at house to full her coursework. She was furloughed and misplaced work. And then that major winter storm hit Houston, knocking out her working water.

Just because it appeared that “better things are coming,” she says, “the one thing I’m waiting for—I’m super excited for—is not turning out.”

Perez says that as a younger mother, she didn’t have the prospect to stroll throughout her highschool commencement stage. Last 12 months, she earned a faculty certificates—however due to the pandemic, she acquired a slideshow as a substitute of a actual graduation. Having missed these two ceremonies makes the prospect of lacking one other, larger one exhausting for her to take.

“I worked hard, have not slept, gone to classes, put my whole work schedule around this, just to be told, ‘You don’t get it, and you’re never going to get it,’” she says.

The lack of the expertise is just not hers alone. Perez’s husband can be graduating this spring, from Houston Community College’s HVAC program.

“We try to make sure our classes are opposite days. Either he works in the day and I go to work at night, or we’re trading off,” she says. “It’s been a lot.”

And their youngsters—ages two to 15, amongst them two units of twins—who’ve grown up watching their dad and mom research have been trying ahead to witnessing the reward of that dedication.

“They’re excited for me,” Perez says. “They know that it means a lot to me to get to walk the stage.”

Making a digital commencement really feel worse to Perez is the truth that other forms of actions are opening again up in her area—and different nearby schools have planned to hold their ceremonies in person.

“I just feel like maybe because we are a community school, they don’t owe it to us. We are a lot of working parents, a lot of minorities,” she says. “My two-year degree doesn’t mean it’s any less worth it. I tried hard for that too.”

As of Friday, the petition Perez began had 600 signatures.



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