The usual pomp and circumstance at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for commencement at Cathedral High was replaced this year with online viewing from the kitchen table for the schools 57 graduates.
Head of School Dan Carmody said the ceremony took place on Saturday, May 30, and lasted about 40 minutes, including speeches from students, faculty and staff. It was followed up by a live Zoom meeting for graduates and their families, he said.
“We made an early decision to have a virtual ceremony and our goal first and foremost was that our students deserved to be recognized and celebrated,” he said. “We didn’t know if we would be able to do anything in person. We went with what we could promise students and guarantee them. That was a virtual graduation. Our families and students were great. There was some backlash. It was a tough pill to swallow for our seniors. They did, though, see the sense of it. They didn’t let their anger and frustrating over losing something so special impact their ability to see the positive. Our approach as a leadership team was always to do what we could to let them feel loved, valued and special.”
All over the city and Greater Boston, schools debate and formulate what it is they can do to honor their seniors – many of whom in the Class of 2020 has lost out on the best memories of high school, including Prom, academic award ceremonies, spring sports seasons, and even graduation. Virtual graduations have been a safe alternative, but a tough sell as few had tried them yet.
At Cathedral High, they were one of the first on Saturday to pull it together – producing most of the content by themselves. The pre-recorded ceremony included speeches by the valedictorian, salutatorian, Carmody and Principal Nampeera Lugira. They also read off the names and had an opening prayer too.
Carmody said it was a different experience watching from his home.
“The ceremony was very nice, but you have absolutely no idea how people are responding in their homes,” he said. “I was in my guest bedroom watching. We did have a Zoom call scheduled for everyone afterward and that was amazing. You had grandparents on the couch, parents sitting at the kitchen table, and graduates at home in their caps and gowns. Most people described the ceremony as very, very meaningful.”
Valedictorian Katherine Then, of Dorchester, said she and her parents watched it on her laptop in their living room. Naturally, she had a pre-recorded speech in the ceremony, but in general she said they were pleased with the effort and celebration.
“I thought it was very well put together,” she said. “I like hearing from the headmaster and principal and them showing the school in the video. I thought it was very beautiful even though we couldn’t celebrate in person. Even through all these circumstances we are going through, we were able to persevere and many of us graduated with great grades. We turned a bad situation into something good and positive, I think.”
Then said they have a very close class and community, and many are moving on to college. She said she is going to Mass College of Pharmacy in Longwood to begin studies that she hopes will result in her becoming a pediatrician. She said she wanted to study at a great college, and also stay close to home.
In her speech on the virtual graduation, she said she encouraged her classmates to be positive.
“I was trying to encourage my class,” she said. “I wanted them to be hopeful and they can do anything they put their minds to. I don’t want them ever to give up on their dreams. When things come up that are problems, not to treat them as stop signs. The need to just find another road to continue on.”
She said even though seniors lost a lot in the Class of 2020, she was happy with the efforts made by Cathedral High staff and parents to try to make things special for them in tough circumstances.
“I would rate the effort as a 10 because we have really tried our best,” she said. “I think everyone tried their best.”