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The Prospector

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The Prospector

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The Prospector

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Graduating students prepare to celebrate amid COVID-19

After what was deemed a “disappointing” virtual graduation ceremony in September due to necessary restrictions brought on by the pandemic, a survey was sent out to Spring and Summer 2020 UTEP graduates as well as eligible Fall 2020 aspirant graduates to garner feedback on how to proceed with this semester’s commencement ceremony 

Students were presented with a set of options for their preferred course of action, each set to livestream for loved ones to tune in safely at home. The first would be an in-person ceremony in December which would strictly adhere to all safety protocols; including mandatory face masks, social distancing, possible advanced COVID testing, and would be without guests and any supplementary campus activities. The second recourse would be to postpone the commencement to May and, tentative on how public health conditions persisted, celebrate in as conventional a way as possible at the Sun Bowl stadium. 

Results revealed an overwhelming 45% of students who answered the survey chose the latter 

“We’ve waited as long as we can to make a decision, hoping that the public health situation would improvbut it hasn’t. Even if we break it into multiple small ceremonies, we don’t think we can pull off a meaningful graduation in December in the current conditions,” UTEP President Heather Wilson stated in a news release 

According to the news release, UTEP has decided to postpone the Winter commencement ceremony until May 2021. The university plans to hold a “big, outdoor commencement” at the Sun Bowl in May, we plan to hold a big, outdoor Commencement at the Sun Bowl, and invite graduates from spring, summer, and fall 2020 to participate.  

The postponement of the commencement does not mean each graduate cannot celebrate in their own personal way while still abiding by pandemic regulations until sometime in the foreseeable future traditional ceremonies become more feasible. 

From having family drive outside of their homes extending their congratulations to displaying signs announcing their accomplishment visible to the neighborhood and passersby with balloon arches, graduates have found new ways to celebrate their accomplishments. 

Several students shared how they celebrated, how they plan to, and if they plan to at all considering the pandemic. 


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Jess Carreon graduated in May as the president of the Texas Nursing Student Association and explained the group had been fundraising for their highly anticipated pinning ceremony for the past eight months, raising approximately $11,000. Class officers thought it best to postpone the ceremony for perhaps a year or two until the slow of COVID-19 was more imminent for not only precautionary measures, but to also uphold the traditions of the ceremony.  

COVID-19 also disrupted the students; much anticipated plans to attend a national conference in Florida. For Carreon, the pandemic disrupted her graduation celebration complete with announcements and invitations that now sit under her bed. Instead, she celebrated alongside her parents with a dinner at home, sporting her cap and gown and taking pictures. 

It took me a while to finish school, so just the fact that I was able to frame my diploma and have my dad frame it up on the wall with my sibling’s diplomaswas my biggest celebration,” Carreon said. “I had told my dad, ‘I’m going to do this for you’ and I made it, I made it happen.  

In the case of Carreon, though she felt robbed of the celebration she’d worked so tirelessly for, she found solace in making her family proud and is well on her way to completing graduate school with a sense of gratitude that has only continued to fortify.  

“I think this has given all of us a different outlook on life,” Carreon saidEverything right now is so unpredictable, and I think after all of this is over, we’re all going to learn to value our family more, our health more, and the little things we didn’t see before. 

For other graduating students, celebratory plans are still up in the air.  

Melissa Mejia is set to graduate in December and her daughter in May. Because of this, Mejia took additional courses throughout the semester to ensure an early graduation in December to not have any interfering crossover with her daughter’s graduation and both celebrate their respective days joyously and without complication.  

However, due to the postponement of commencement, they will both likely graduate in May. Mejia says if this is the case, she will not attend her own commencement to be there for her daughter.  

“I’m usually one of those that likes to throw a big party, celebrate and have all the family together; it’s a big accomplishment, but I think this year it’s going to be different because of the limits that we’re under,” Mejia said. “We’re probably going to do a family dinnermaybe virtual with the rest of the family, but it’s okay, we’re going to be alright.   

Mejia’s initial plan was to travel to New Mexico with her entire family and collectively support her daughter in this milestone 

We’ll focus more on hers Mejia saidIt’s just very hard to plan…We know what we can’t do right now, but in May we’re not sure where we’re going to be.” Other students are not in a celebratory frame of mind considering the circumstances and have preferred to postpone.  

This is the case for Rebecca Rubio, a graduate student earning her degree in December 

Although I miss my family and friends very much and I feel this is a big accomplishment for me, I decided not to celebrate until things get better here in El Paso,” Rubio said. “Stay safe, Miners.”   


Sasha Minjarez may be reached at [email protected]; @SashEm_ on Twitter.  

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About the Contributors
Noelia Gonzalez is a Senior, Double Majoring in Multimedia Journalism and Digital Media Production at the University of Texas at El Paso. She works as the Multimedia Reporter for the University's newspaper, The Prospector. She has interned at KTSM Channel 9 and KVIA ABC-7, pitching stories and helping reporters write and edit their stories for air. She enjoys editing and producing videos and hopes to incorporate her love of film, music, and news-reporting in her future endeavors.
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Graduating students prepare to celebrate amid COVID-19