ROANOKE, Va. – This week, 34 Roanoke Catholic School seniors still got to rock a cap and gown, but it wasn’t the way they imagined four years ago when they started this journey.
Putting on chords and adjusting a graduation cap is more than just a right of passage to senior David Gepitulan.
“Especially at Roanoke Catholic, we have a lot of senior traditions I’ve been excited for and the choir I’m in, we have a strong tradition there too. Ever since I’ve been really little I’ve been excited to do a lot of these, of course I was really disappointed.”
Gepitulan isn’t the only one who’s experiencing disappointment. A graduation just as unique as the class of 2020: How Roanoke Catholic honors seniors
That’s why the administration decided to get students and their families together to still take that honorable walk, receive their diploma, write a chalk message and throw a celebratory streamer.
“At a normal graduation, everyone gets this split second right when they get their diploma, but here, it’s all about you," said Gepitulan.
The process took about 15 minutes. Families had to sign up for a time slot.
Principal Patrick Patterson said their team designed this special celebration for the entire family.
“It’s about the students and helping them make a great memory but also including parents like never before,” said Patterson.
Parents get to be part of that walk to get the diploma and be there for the entire walking ceremony similar to how they were there for the students’ high school career.
Amy Pearman of Boyd Pearman Photographer was there capturing the moments, she’s a parent of a Roanoke Catholic student.
Before this unique ceremony is over, Pearman takes a photo of the student with a sign or object that symbolizes their future plans or the meaningful journey that got them there.
Principal Patterson said students got creative with the gesture.
“Students have come with everything from sweatshirts of the colleges they’ll be attending or posters of the MMA matches they hope to participate in and actually yesterday we had a student bring her family pet, a dog,” said Patterson.
No, it’s not traditional, but it’s a reminder of how remarkable the class of 2020 truly is.
“My favorite part was writing a message to the rest of the senior class and hopefully when everyone is passing through here they can see it too and know that in the midst of this quarantine and this crisis that we’re still being honored still having our special year,” Gepitulan said.
David Gepitulan will attend the University of Virginia in hopes of becoming a doctor.
Boyd Pearman Photography’s photos along with video will be put together for a virtual commencement in June via the school’s live streaming service and Facebook.
The plan is to also have an in-person ceremony at a later date.