SAN ANTONIO – East Central High School held its hybrid graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 early Saturday morning. Their celebration consisted of pre-recorded speeches, including from valedictorian Emily Hofmann, that’s available online.
Due to ongoing pandemic, Justin Gutiérrez said he truly never thought this day would come.
“It has been very nerve-wracking not knowing what to expect going into (graduation), and of course, next year,” Gutiérrez said. “Overall, it’s an exciting process.”
He said the time in quarantine with his family has shown him anything is possible.
“I’m glad (administrators) found a way to, you know, get everybody involved.”
A total of 792 rode in the front passenger seat and zigzagged their way through the school’s parking lot. Coaches, teachers and staff cheered along the course and provided refreshments for the graduates and their families before finally making it to the outdoor stage.
“I’m just so proud of the staff and the students who worked together to come up with this idea,” Roland Toscano, superintendent of East Central Independent School District said. “They've just been working hard all month long since we announced it (on) May 1st (that we would) pull it off in a way that, you know, is dignified and adequately recognizes the accomplishments (of students and) brings the community together.”
Once on stage, graduates stepped out onto the red carpet and picked up their sanitized diplomas to then be greeted by Principal Shane McKay. As students crossed the outdoor stage to the beat of “Pomp & Circumstance,” friends, family and parents stayed behind inside their vehicle. Some parents like Jacklin Cantú couldn’t hold back their tears.
“(I’m crying) because this is my last son graduating,” Cantú said. I’m so proud of him (and just) sad about everything that’s happened, but this is an awesome way to honor them.”
Those present said East Central High School and the school district has helped make the best of a tough situation due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We were a little bit worried at first, but it’s turning out to be something that I think is going to be memorable for all (of) these kids,” Carl Baca said.
Baca is senior Tiana’s dad. He drove a party bus full of family members to celebrate his daughter’s accomplishments and her acceptance to Texas A&M in College Station.
The Baca’s weren’t the only ones with a party bus. Some families rented limos and others turned their vehicles into a float for their graduates.
Although there may not have been a formal speech, Toscano took a moment to share words of encouragement for all seniors.
“I just think that this situation that we found ourselves in the last couple of months, has reminded us that things happen in life that we can't control,” Toscano said. “What we can control is how we respond, and the way that the students have dealt with this situation proves that they're resilient, positive and optimistic. They've grown up and they're ready for the world.”
East Central High School seniors were able to snap a socially-distanced picture alongside Toscano to commemorate their big day before finally moving their tassel to the left side of their cap and getting back in their car.
To view the Class of 2020’s Graduation Video that includes the invocation, speeches from the senior class president and valedictorian as well as the benediction, click here.
To watch the celebration, click here.