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Graduates Celebrate Achievements Online and On Campus
December 17, 2020 - Eastern Florida State College marked Fall Commencement on Thursday with a Virtual Ceremony and special drive-through celebrations that brought hundreds of graduates and their families to all four campuses.
As graduates pulled up on campus they were given a diploma cover and special yard sign and could take pictures in front of colorful banners.
"It is exciting and this makes it all real now that we have finished," said Respiratory Care Associate in Science degree graduate Lajunta Howard, who was first in line on the Melbourne campus with her classmate Katiuska Mallarino.
"It is a happy day for me and my family," said Mallarino. "It was a little different but we are having fun."
Many dressed up for the occasion, even sporting caps and gowns they would normally wear for a ceremony inside the King Center for the Performing Arts if the COVID-19 pandemic had not impacted the abilty to hold large events.
"Today is a really special day, it has been a long time coming and it is such a blessing to do it with your family and your children," said Organizational Management Bachelor's graduate Jane Green, who managed to celebrate with relatives thanks to their arrival packed into the back of a pickup truck.
"It is just a really nice moment to share with the special people in my life."
The Virtual Ceremony was posted online at noon and also aired on WEFS-TV.
It features the names of graduates, including those from Summer because they were eligible to take part in fall commencement.
The ceremony also features taped remarks from college President Dr. Jim Richey and faculty and staff who congratulated the graduates for succeeding despite the pandemic.
“I cannot begin to say how proud I am of you. Earning your degrees despite the challenges you faced is impressive and a testament to your strength of character and strong belief in yourselves, “ said Richey.
“Many words come to mind when I think of you, among them are resilience, fortitude, and courage. You never gave up, and today you enjoy the rewards of your hard work. You are a shining example of the spirit of Eastern Florida State College at its very best.”
Richey also noted that that some graduates will go straight from graduation into the front lines in the fight against the virus, saying “to you we express our deepest gratitude for stepping forward to protect all of us.”
The ceremony is archived on the college's YouTube Channel plus at easternflorida.edu/go/efscgrad, which also features social media graphics to help graduates and their families celebrate online.
Posts using #EFSCGrad are being featured on a special social media wall.
In addition to appearing in the taped ceremony, Richey visited all four campuses where he helped hand out diploma covers and took photos with students during events that included social distancing protocols and facial coverings to protect employees and those in attendance.
"It’s interesting since there is no big ceremony, but this is more than I expected and it is very lovely and heartwarming," said Shelby Redmond who completed the Data Sciences track in the Computer Information Systems Technology Bachelor program. "I didn’t expect to have my photo with Dr. Richey — that was really cool."
Under the college's outdoor safety guidelines, graduates and their families were allowed to pose for photos without wearing masks. Photographers from GradImages were on hand to take professional photos and will contact graduates directly with details on how to purchase them.
"I really wanted to walk across the stage but they have made it okay by being able to drive up and get photos," said Associate in Arts degree graduate Steven Batchelor who plans to get his real estate license and move on to a bachelor degree program.
The unique drive-through celebrations created a special memory that Jena Bermudez will never forget as she was surprised with an arrival via limousine.
"It was a total surprise, I had no idea. It was just in front of the house this morning," said the Organizational Management Bachelor's degree graduate. "It’s different but it has been fun. It is cool in a different way and it is a special day for sure."