That Time I… graduated high school during a pandemic

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Courtesy of Angelina Padilla-Tompkins

Vanessa (left to right), Aunt Gris, William (Father), Angelina, Thalia, Bianca, Leticia (mother). Angelina’s family joined, in masks, her to celebrate her high school graduation during the unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Angelina Padilla-Tompkins, Senior Opinion Columnist

The COVID-19 pandemic took everyone by surprise and unfortunately affected everyone in one way or another. One thing the pandemic took from me was my traditional high school graduation. 

The second semester of your senior year is supposed to be the one to look forward to. You’re so close to graduation, you’re excited, the school hosts all kinds of events for seniors. At my school there was going to be a senior picnic, skip day, spirit week, prom and more. 

We had no idea we wouldn’t get to do all the things we were looking forward to. We simply left for spring break and never returned. 

As the end of the year drew nearer, students and their families were eager to know what the schools decision on graduation, or if there would even be one. 

Eventually, seniors were sent a google survey where we could choose from three July weekends where graduation would be held. 

Graduation was held, in a quiet empty auditorium with none of my fellow classmates beside me. 

For my high school graduation, each student had a specific time slot. Graduates were asked to show up a few minutes early to check in and collect a small sheet of paper with their name that would be handed to the man behind the podium to be read aloud as they crossed the stage. 

Each graduate was allowed no more than six guests. I chose my sister Vanessa, sister Thalia, aunt Gris, my cousin Bianca as well as my mom and dad. 

In my graduation cap and gown I handed the man behind the podium the paper with my name. He read it as I crossed the stage, I shook a school board member’s hand, collected a diploma case and had my photo taken. 

The entire graduation “ceremony” took maybe two minutes. My family didn’t even have time to sit down. They might as well have just walked with me. 

Looking back on it, it’s sad. It is hard to see anything other than what I missed out on, but it will be a story to tell to my kids or grandkids. I hope my college graduation is more memorable, in a good way.