Graduation Ceremonies Recognize Hard Work & Achievement For New York's Students

Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

New York state’s high school graduates endured one of the most trying academic years in recent history, and what they have accomplished during these past few months has been nothing short of extraordinary. It was never meant to be easy, but recent months truly put New York’s senior class to the test. All those who earned a high school diploma this year deserve special congratulations.

In recent weeks, the Assembly Minority Conference has urged the governor’s office to consider allowing socially distanced, safe outdoor graduations, as New York’s COVID-19 infection rate has dropped significantly. To that end, we wrote a letter to the governor emphasizing the importance of the ceremonies, especially for students entering the workforce or military service who may not have another chance to participate in a graduation ceremony.

Fortunately, that effort has made a difference, as Gov. Cuomo announced outdoor ceremonies of up to 150 people will be permitted beginning on Friday, June 26. But as we have seen mass gatherings across the state and nation in recent weeks, hopefully full, in-person graduation ceremonies will also be deemed acceptable.

For those able to participate, the ceremonies will represent the end of a unique journey, but also a return to the normalcy we have all missed for months. Every student who exhibited the incredible resilience needed to complete this academic year deserves to hear their loved ones cheer as they walk across a stage to receive their diploma. As we get closer to the end of June, we are hopeful even more students will be able to participate, and it is my sincere hope Gov. Cuomo revisits this issue in the coming days.

The uncertainty of the last few months has been stressful and frustrating to say the least. Finding things to celebrate, gathering with family and friends, and returning to traditional routines has been challenging. But we have an opportunity here to hone in on something really special. We should reflect on the strength and courage of these future civic leaders, entrepreneurs, professionals and invaluable members of the workforce and military.

The young men and women who make up the Class of 2020 and will be moving on to new pursuits have given us something to cheer about this summer. Let’s find a way to get as many of them across the stage as possible.