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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The road to graduation

    By Halle Fukawa

       Gabrielino High School’s virtual graduation will be held on June 12 at 6:00 p.m. The video event will be hosted on Youtube Premium and will include student speakers, personalized messages from the seniors, and a roll call. 

       As the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world, city and state leaders, such as California Governor Gavin Newsom, began issuing shelter-at-home orders and enacting restrictions for public gatherings in March, making a virtual graduation the only option for seniors across the country.

       “I know there are some reservations about the virtual graduation,” stated Assistant Principal Eva Shin. “But let me assure you that this is a time for recognition and celebration of students while ensuring safety. We will be able to include all of the same elements of a live graduation.”

       Caps and gowns were distributed to seniors on May 9 in the Gabrielino parking lot. The parking lot was decorated with balloons and posters, while teachers and staff stood to greet the students and cheer them on. 

       “I didn’t think all the teachers would be there,” stated senior Jacdqueline Wei. “I was genuinely happy that I got to say hi to them. It kind of made up for the past months of isolation.”

       During this drive through event, blue balloons were also passed out to the seniors so that the annual Balloon Release could be conducted that day at 3:00 p.m. from the students’ homes. 

       On May 6, Gabrielino’s administration first announced that the official plan for the 2020 graduation would be a virtual commencement in June and a joint graduation on June 8, 2021, alongside that year’s graduating class. Although there were many questions and concerns from the senior class, the administration viewed the compromise as the best option under the circumstances.

       “There are just so many factors that go in [to planning a graduation],” stated Principal Sharron Heinrich. “We’re afraid that if we […] commit to holding a separate graduation, it may not occur. We do not want to promise something that we cannot deliver.”

       On April 25, after learning that the administration was seriously considering a virtual ceremony, seniors began signing a petition against the idea. 

       “As much as I can empathize with the situation, I still disagree with the admin’s decision,” stated senior Starlee Hoc. “I don’t think having a virtual graduation does any justice to our class and it just seems like a hurdle that [we] need to get over.”

       Hundreds of signatures were acquired but the point was ultimately deemed moot due to the state continued restrictions on public gatherings.

       All senior activities were officially cancelled on April 16. In order to conform to social distancing protocol, Prom and Grad Night at Disney’s California Adventure park were cancelled. Tickets for Grad Nite will be refunded on June 18, the same day that yearbooks and diplomas will be issued.

       Along with the seniors who voiced their opinions that the ideas posed by the administration were unsatisfactory, Gabrielino’s staff also felt discomfort in the matter.

       “As a parent, I understand what parents and students are feeling. Our son’s graduation from Gabrielino [was an] important event in our family,” stated Principal Sharron Heinrich. “[The administration and staff] are working really hard to provide a ceremony that is worthy of our students. I know it will not be the same as being at beautiful Santa Anita, but this is the only chance we have to recognize the full class before they move onto the next steps in their lives.”

       Also in a virtual format, the Senior Awards program aired online Thursday night. The valedictorian, Rumaisa Islam, and salutatorian, Ashley Tanaka, were announced along with numerous other award recipients. Seniors Isabel Jimeno, Daphne Mall, and Elisabeth Nunez were selected as student speakers for the event.



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    The road to graduation