It’s been obvious for months, ever since the coronavirus started shutting schools and canceling event after event. Graduation — at least the kind that we’ve grown accustomed to, in crowded auditoriums, with mortarboards, gowns, and plentiful hugs from classmates — wasn’t going to happen for the Class of 2020.
But the inevitability of the cancellations didn’t take away the sting. Even without traditional commencement ceremonies, principals and school staff have toiled to make this time of year special for the tens of thousands of New York City seniors earning diplomas from city public schools.
Some of the methods were hands-on. Donning a mask and gloves, Mark Federman, principal of East Side Community High School in Manhattan, hand-delivered posters proclaiming “We are so proud of you!” to members of his senior class.
Other schools found ways for the surrounding neighborhood to celebrate the graduates. Brooklyn High School of the Arts in Boerum Hill hung along its fence the senior photos of its graduates, who smile onto the sidewalk in their bow ties and formalwear. Inspirational quotes from education activist Malala Yousafzai and soccer star Megan Rapinoe were posted alongside a message from fellow seniors saying, “Your brilliance, creativity, leadership and resilience will always be remembered!”
Five miles away at James Madison High School in Marine Park, Brooklyn, the senior class is being similarly commemorated. The laminated posters provide a place for graduates and family to stop and reflect on this bittersweet rite of passage. It’s a reminder not only on what’s been lost these past few months, but also on all the seniors have accomplished.
The city will honor this year’s grads with a ceremony broadcast on June 30 on PIX11 featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda, a former New York City public school student, teacher and, of course, creator of the smash musical “Hamilton.” Tina Fey, Pitbull, and other celebrities will join the festivities with student performances.
“You may not have the traditional ceremony that you were looking forward to,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said recently.“We’re going to give you something you will remember for the rest of your life and you will cherish.”
Here are some snapshots of how some of New York City’s seniors and their families celebrated this year’s Class of 2020.