Blood, sweat and tears

The fight for the 2020 commencement ceremony

Griffin Ell / Arts Director

For the past month, the students of the class of 2020 have been holding their breath about the fate of their commencement ceremony.

Will it be rescheduled? Or, will it be canceled all together? 

Luckily, on April 6, Keene State College made the announcement on the college’s official Facebook page that the commencement ceremony was to be postponed.

“Class of 2020: You deserve to be celebrated,” the Facebook post began. “Your loved ones deserve to share your achievements. Your professors deserve to see how far you’ve come. We are proud and you will celebrate Commencement on October 3, 2020, during Alumni Reunion Weekend.” 

Before the announcement, students were worried that the ceremony would be canceled altogether.

When senior Camila Castro heard that the commencement ceremony might be canceled, she decided to make her voice heard.

On March 18, Castro started a petition on Change.org, titled “Postpone Commencement Ceremony at Keene State College.”

Castro did not want to miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime, one she has worked very hard for, so she decided to advocate for the class of 2020 to make commencement happen.

“I have waited my whole life to walk across that stage, especially since I am a first-generation college graduate,” Castro stated. “It just means a lot to me and my family, as well as wanting to share that stage with the people who I started this journey with.” 

Castro is not alone in wanting to walk across that stage. One commenter on the petition also expressed how much the ceremony meant to them. “Commencement at Keene State College made me feel so grateful to have attended this amazing school with such dedicated professors, students and the amazing town of Keene,” the commenter explained. “This ceremony means so much to students moving forward in their career and I couldn’t imagine how each and every senior is feeling right now. It hurts my heart that this is happening.”

Castro explained that commencement was right to be postponed and not outright canceled, as students work hard and this is their final moment before they start their lives and it is about the memories. 

Castro’s petition on Change.org, at the time of publishing, has received over 2,200 signatures in a matter of three weeks.

“It makes me feel proud,” Castro explained. “I was able to start this petition and finish it with a victory.” 

“For many people, they are among the first in their families to receive four-year degrees or complete college in general,” Castro said. “Walking the stage is the final moment in our undergraduate lives before we start our careers or graduate school. We are able to wear our regalia showing what we’ve worked for, make final college memories with friends, and make our parents and families proud by seeing what we’ve been able to achieve.”

Keene State College Class of 2020 President Madison Olsen was upset when she heard the news of the postponement; however, she is glad that the ceremony was outright postponed. 

“I was heartbroken,” Olsen explained. “Four years of hard work, planning and waiting, all canceled over COVID-19. It was a terrible feeling. However, I am so happy that the college decided to postpone the event rather than outright cancel it.”

Olsen, along with the entire Class of 2020 Executive Board, were an integral part in getting the ceremony postponed. 

“When we heard that it was not possible to hold a commencement on May 9, we knew we needed to fight for a postponement rather than canceling it or holding a virtual commencement,” expressed Olsen. “Everyone involved felt strongly that the class deserved an in-person ceremony, and that’s how we all got to this decision.”

Not only did Olsen work closely with the Class of 2020 Executive Board, she also worked closely with Keene State College President Melinda Treadwell, and expressed how this was also an emotional time for Treadwell. “This was also really heartbreaking for President Treadwell,” said Olsen, “she even got emotional in our meetings about it.”

Olsen also expressed how supportive the entire administration was in coming to the decision of postponement. “The administration was incredibly supportive of our class and understood that we would be upset at the news about May 9,” explained Olsen. “I think we all felt like they cared about what we all had to say. They listened to our concerns and questions, and helped us understand the importance of sharing the news with the class so people could start canceling reservations, etc. They made sure we knew that they wanted our input.”

Castro also expressed that Treadwell and the administration worked tirelessly with the class of 2020 in coming to this decision. 

“I think Melinda Treadwell did an amazing job,” Castro explained. “This is a very stressful situation for all and the fact that President Melinda Treadwell is giving us an opportunity to walk and have an actual ceremony shows how much Keene can come together as one at the end of the day.”

Efforts were made to get in contact with Keene State College President Melinda Treadwell, but she did not respond for comment.

According to Barbra Preston, the executive assistant to President Treadwell, the decision came for the well-being of the class of 2020. 

“All the schools in the USNH system have postponed their May commencement ceremonies,” Preston explained. “The decision [postponing] was made with the health and well-being of our community as the top priority.”

Preston explained that the decision also came because of the COVID-19 restrictions that prevent large gatherings.

Castro thanked everyone involved in making the decision to postpone the ceremony and that putting the health and safety of the students and the community is the important step to take.

“We put blood, sweat and tears throughout these four years,” Castro stated. “I was happy [the petition] was successful and that we are having an actual ceremony. I am just waiting for this to be over and be with the class of 2020 one last time, and walk across that stage together.”

 

Connor Crawford can be contacted at

ccrawford@kscequinox.com

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