"Some may want their degree and keep moving forward but walking across the stage shows how much hard work and dedication I've put in to receive my degree," said graduating N.C. Central senior Deandre Lee. Photo Courtesy of Deandre Lee

More than a Degree – Senior and others share sentiments on virtual graduation

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N.C. Central senior Deandre Lee is having a hard time accepting that his college career is coming to an end with a virtual graduation because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Lee faced tough times during his time here at N.C. Central, he has made the most of his experience. He has joined over 15 clubs and organizations, holding high positions in most of them. Most importantly, Lee will be the first person in his family to graduate college.

“The virtual graduation is safe and durable to manage, but I don’t particularly appreciate seniors not walking across the stage. It is not fair that seniors cannot walk because of COVID-19, and the graduates worked hard to get to that point,” Lee said. It is only once in a lifetime to graduate from undergrad, and to spend the last semester with everything virtually is pitiful.”

The virtual graduation was introduced during the spring semester after the UNC System moved all of its classes to online instruction. Being that there was a high risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus while gathering in large crowds, the virtual graduation was put in place for everyone’s safety, Lee said.

N.C. Central Chancellor Johnson Akinleye announced in October that there will be another virtual graduation this fall to protect the students, families of the students, and staff. Lee is not the only graduating senior who argues that he is being robbed of an experience that many people before him have gotten.

“I’m disappointed accommodations were not made to have some form of an in-person graduation,” N.C. Central senior Assandra Baysah said. “It would have been nice to have the option.”

Some graduating seniors said N.C. Central officials have forgotten how it feels to walk across the stage, being that most of them have acquired a degree at some point.

Students believe walking across the stage is the most important part of the college experience, Lee said.

N.C. Central’s commencement committee, including N.C. Central officials, senior class president Tyrionna Dockery, and Student Government Association president Shaun Coleman, took an in-person graduation ceremony into consideration.

The decision for a virtual graduation ceremony was a well thought out decision for the safety of everyone, N.C. Central Associate Vice Chancellor Ayana Hernandez said.

“Walking across the stage represents crossing the finish line. It resembles the finale of a college journey,” Lee said. “It was my dream to go to college, hear my name at graduation, and walk across the stage. I always imagined walking with the thoughts of everything I’ve been through to get to that point. Some may want their degree and keep moving forward but walking across the stage shows how much hard work and dedication I’ve put in to receive my degree.”

According to N.C. Central Alumna Paisley Williams, walking across the stage was a memorable experience for her.

Williams said sharing that experience with her friends and family was one of those days that she felt on top of the world. She hates that students are not able to get this experience and hopes that we can return to in-person graduation ceremonies.

The fall virtual graduation will be, in simple terms, a slide show presentation. N.C. Central officials said each student will get the opportunity to make their own slide. The slide will consist of a picture of them, whether it be a headshot or a full body picture. It will also have their name and possibly the degree(s) that the students will be receiving.

On Dec. 5, N.C. Central’s fall commencement ceremony will go live on YouTube, and N.C. Central officials will read the names of each student from each department as they would during an in-person graduation.

Students will have the option of having their degrees shipped to their house or pick them up from campus.

“We definitely want there to be an in-person graduation ceremony in the spring,” Hernandez said. “But we also have to watch out for guidelines from health officials from the local, state, and national level.”

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