BYU Broadcast Journalism Seniors Hold Driving Graduation Ceremony

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By Emma Benson and Sydnee Gonzalez

Taylor Hansen, Amy Hamilton and Sarah Collins, BYU Broadcast Journalism Graduates celebrate their graduation ceremony in a drive-through ceremony with balloons and certificates. (Taylor Hansen)

Taylor Hansen struggled to understand that she would not have the opportunity to officially celebrate the end of her undergraduate experience.

“I didn’t know how much walking to graduation really meant to me until it was taken away from me,” she said. “The closer I got to graduation, the harder it was because I realized I wasn’t going to get the fence I thought we all deserved. “

But the lack of a formal ceremony wasn’t going to stop Hansen and 15 of his broadcast journalism cohorts from celebrating – under COVID-19 guidelines.

Graduates, family and friends parked their cars in the parking lot of a church in Provo on Friday to participate in a drive-in ceremony. Only three people left their cars at a time to comply with COVID-19 social distancing rules, and each person had to keep a distance of six feet from other participants. Graduates also made sure to hand out gloves to anyone planning to touch the mic, make hand sanitizer available to attendees, and wipe everything down.

Each graduate walked across the sidewalk in front of the cars to collect their homemade “Pandemic Graduation” diploma when their name was called.

Taylor Hansen holds her “Pandemic Graduation” certificate of completion at their drive-in ceremony. (Taylor Hansen)

“I feel very lucky that there are people in my cohort who really wanted to set up something like this because not everyone had something to do last weekend,” said Hansen. “It was fun having something that I can actually go to.”

The idea of ​​organizing the drive-up ceremony is an original idea of ​​Mary Wall. Initially, she and other graduates had planned to hold a small gathering with the graduates and their families, but social distancing measures quickly ruled out that option.

“As the guidelines originally changed, 100 people could get together to 50 people to 10 people with social distancing guidelines, we realized, ‘Oh my God, we really need to change the way we expected it to. do, ”Wall said. “At first I was like, ‘If we only have 10 graduates, it’s fine.’ But then I realized there were more people who wanted to join us.

After seeing a few Twitter posts about church meetings driving on Easter Sunday, Wall got the idea to do something similar for graduation. She then started reaching out to friends to coordinate the event, which she said was changing until a few hours before it started.

“It was a little crazy,” she said. “It was a little stressful because we wanted to make sure that our number one priority – no matter how much we wanted to celebrate or what we wanted to do – was people’s safety.”

The hard work and discipline of Wall and his classmate paid off, however. She is grateful that they still had a positive experience while respecting the security measures.

“I remember looking at everyone in their cars and everyone clapping with the windows down and people decorating their cars and recognizing that even though it wasn’t a normal summons, where everyone is sitting in one room together, well dressed, it still performed that ritual we all desired and celebrated us and our hard work under slightly different circumstances than we expected, ”Wall said.

Broadcast journalism junior Andrea Cabrera, left, films the graduation ceremony as graduates and their families watch from their cars. (Courtesy of Mary Wall)

Even though it wasn’t the ceremony they had been looking forward to, Wall said there was an advantage to having a drive-through ceremony – graduates didn’t have to limit themselves to inviting just four family members. or friends (the number of convocation tickets that their college gives to each graduate). Wall said each graduate has been told they can bring up to two cars to the driving ceremony. She said there were 20 to 30 cars that showed up.

“The people who supported me throughout my years at university, there were well over four people and I was initially sad that they couldn’t all participate,” she said. . “But then, with graduation behind the wheel… if your whole family wanted to get in their one car, then she could come.” So we were able to have a more inclusive graduation with the people who were really important to us. “

The event was also streamed live via a private Instagram account created especially for the event so that family members and other graduates who couldn’t attend could watch it from their homes. Wall said there were more than 47 people broadcasting the event from locations around the world. Hansen was one of the graduates who benefited from private Instagram.

“It was broadcast live to our families who couldn’t attend, so my family in California got to watch my name called,” she said.

Hansen said that at the end of the ceremony, all of the graduates stuck their heads out of their cars to cheer each other up.

“It was a great time to be there with everyone who went through the program with me and it was really, really rewarding,” she said. “I think it was really special that this event was put together so that we could actually have this opportunity to celebrate all together, and I think it was fun to see how we were all able to make the most of this situation. which is not the best. “

Hailing from Sweden, Karmen Kodia said the graduation behind the wheel, while unconventional, still gave her the chance to participate in the American tradition she had been eagerly awaiting.

“It was a really good experience for me, something that I will never forget,” she said.

Kodia said she and her classmates were frustrated when BYU announced the cancellation of official graduation ceremonies because they wanted to celebrate their hard work with each other, family and friends. But the drive-in ceremony still allowed them to celebrate in complete safety.

“It was quite creative and a smart way to celebrate our graduation from school, but at the same time enforce the social distancing restrictions that the government told us to do,” she said.

Although Kodia’s family originally planned to travel from Sweden to physically attend her graduation ceremony, they still got to see her “walk”, deliver a speech, and participate with her classmates in a final cheer from her. “Newsline”, which they do every time they end. their TV news.

“It was fun for me that my family could watch watching it at the same time,” she said. “They couldn’t be here physically… but thanks to the technology they were able to at least see something.”

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