Graduation, elation or frustration

VBCPS gets creative with personalized graduation plans


Abby Asimos

Seniors Faith Grant, Jaedyn Williams, Ryan Sherman, and Ally Grabarczyk celebrate their soon to occur graduation by eating free class of 2020 doughnuts on May 19, 2020.

The beach school district declared June, “The Month of the VBCPS Graduate,” which includes an individual graduation ceremony for each student, and several other celebrations to honor more than 4,800 seniors.

“The bottom line is this: our seniors have worked so hard and deserve to be celebrated. We will make it happen,” said Virginia Beach School Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence in a letter to students.

Since Virginia’s stay-at-home order remains in place until June 10, the originally scheduled ceremonies at the Convention Center were canceled. So now, according to Spence, between June 17 and June 20, every high school will host an individual graduation ceremony for each student that allows the graduate to hear their name called, walk across a stage in their cap and gown, receive their diploma, and get their picture taken. 

“I think the new plan for graduation is better than what I hoped. I was really disappointed thinking we were going to just have a drive through graduation. Once they announced it would be in person and we would walk on stage, I was extremely happy that the VBCPS administration pulled through for the seniors,” said senior Ryan Sherman. “I really hope that we will be able to go on the field during the Light Up The Night event. I think we deserve to be together at Ocean Lakes one last time before graduation.”

Each school will work with seniors and their families in regard to specific times for their walk, a guest list of no more than 10 people, and the appropriate social distancing protocols. Commemorative programs will be created, and the school will provide copies for each student for their family.

“I think we all appreciate the effort that’s being put into giving us at least some sort of way to celebrate our accomplishments,” said Isabellela Libonote. “But there’s frustration in the fact that we were told to anticipate some sort of close as possible to normal graduation in July or August where we would be able to graduate together with our friends. So while the solo graduation at least allows us to invite up to 10 people, those with bigger families won’t be able to invite most of their closest friends.”

While many Virginia Beach seniors feel glad to finally have a plan, the makeshift graduation still leaves some boxes unchecked.

“I honestly don’t really like the way we are going to end the school year and celebrate all of our accomplishments. We worked super hard and stressed out all throughout high school together, so it just doesn’t feel right that we’ll be ending high school individually, and not as a group,” said senior Jondre Macaraeg. “I know that safety is the number one priority, but I really feel like we could have held off for a little bit longer to see if we could somehow have a graduation or celebration in which we aren’t all separated. I don’t mind all of the virtual celebrations and everything, but I don’t feel like this is an ending fitting for the amazing past four years at OL.”

The school district also announced other features and events that will take place in June:

  • A special VBCPS Graduation 2020 website, where each school will post a virtual ceremony video tribute, featuring a welcome from the principal and superintendent as well as student speeches from the valedictorian and salutatorian. All candidates for graduation will be featured with their own personal slide as part of the virtual ceremony. Videos will be available during the week of June 11.
  • A special Class of 2020 “Pass the Diploma” video, featuring students from each of the high schools, scheduled to debut on the division’s YouTube channel the week of June 1.
  • From June 9 through June 13, VBCPS will “Light Up the Night,” as each high school stadium illuminates their field lights at 8:20 p.m. for exactly 20 minutes and 20 seconds, while “2020” is displayed on the scoreboard.
  • VBCPS is working with community groups and businesses to display special tributes to graduates on prominent marquees in the city.
  • Each of the district’s 87 schools and centers will display special graduation tributes to the Class of 2020 on their marquees.
  • A celebratory yard sign will be given to every graduate.
  • The VB Grad Wall will once again allow families and friends to post inspirational messages for the Class of 2020 on the division website by using the hashtag #VBGrad2020 on social media.