Schools & Education

San Benito High School students react to a virtual graduation

Students hope an in-person ceremony can take place after the shelter-in-place order is lifted.

At this time of the year, Jody Gibbs would be working on the graduation at San Benito High School. As a member of the student council, one of her jobs is to be involved in special events at the school, everything from planning to making floats.

But with the school closed during shelter-in-place, 17-year-old Gibbs had to put aside all the end-of-term plans, including rallies and the farewell dance. 

“It is a little disappointing, with all of high school leading up to this moment,” she said. “But I also realize people could be put into danger.”

The new plan is twofold: a virtual graduation and possibly a traditional one. The virtual graduation ceremony will involve approximately 650 seniors taking part in an event on Zoom. 

Gibbs said this would be a slideshow with images of each student with “things they are proud of; pictures, achievements and memories.”

Alexis Lozano, 17, was involved in the planning of Senior Grad Night. She said during the event ”the seniors are presented with scholarships from the community. [It’s] just a day for the seniors and their parents.”

That, of course, has been cancelled too and will be incorporated in the virtual graduation.

“Like most seniors, I was really bummed out,” Lozano said. “I had gone four years and this was supposed to be the big moment to make my parents proud; have my cap and gown and graduate. But after a week, I started comprehending and understanding why we could not do it.”

Lozano mentioned that some of the other seniors were not happy with the idea of the virtual graduation and began collecting signatures for a petition to hold the ceremony anyway. “I have seen a lot of people saying they want one and starting surveys, but I understand the necessity to not have one,” she said.

One of those surveys was started by Senior Class President Samuel Arreola, 17, who said the physical graduation might still go forward.  

“I have been in close contact with the principal and we are going to try to do everything we can to postpone it rather than get rid of it completely,” he said. “The virtual graduation will still happen but if the shelter-in-place is lifted and there is still time, the actual graduation might happen sometime in the fall.”

Arreola’s survey suggests people would prefer a physical graduation over the virtual one, if possible. 

“A lot of people worked really hard and they want to celebrate their accomplishments if we can,” he said. “Obviously a virtual graduation is not going to be the same, but it will still be something under the circumstances.”

Restrictions on groups gathering and the requirements of social distancing will determine if San Benito High School seniors get one or two graduations this year. If all that can be done is the virtual graduation, Gibbs is willing to accept it.  

“We thought it was a good idea, trying to make the best out of a bad situation,” she said. “It was better than no graduation at all.”


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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.