Students at Pacific High School graduated in a virtual ceremony with friends, loved ones and faculty on Saturday. It was the school’s first “Zoom” graduation but staff brought a personal touch to the platform, maintaining the closeness of Sitka’s most intimate graduation ceremony.
Over 50 people were in attendance when Pacific High Students graduated on Saturday, including the seven students who’d reached the milestone.
Principal Mandy Summer said the ceremony was full of firsts.
“This is the first time our master of ceremonies is joining us from a beach in Key West, Florida. Never would have been able to do that if we weren’t doing this on Zoom. This is the first time that I have worn pajama bottoms to a graduation,” she joked.
“More seriously, this is the first time we’re unable to get a graduation photo with all our graduates together, arm in arm, smiling in celebration. And this is also the first year that we as a staff and some of you as family and friends, are unable to shake the hands of our graduates and share a warm hug in the celebration of this tremendous accomplishment. And for this we are very sad.”
But otherwise, the virtual celebration was a joyous occasion, students and their friends and families beaming with pride from their various webcams. And there were plenty of special moments, like when Chuck Miller sang a song he co-wrote for the graduates.
“It’s a protection over all of you and everyone that’s here. When I sing it, imagine your ancestors covering you up with love and light and protection,” Miller said.
Student Representative Abraham Diaz said he’d considered his Pacific High School classmates and teachers an extended family. One he was happy to celebrate with, even remotely.
“Today we are all hitting a milestone we’ve been grinding for for 20 years. This graduation is going to be one we tell everyone about. ‘The Zoom Class of 2020.’ We’re all devastated that we couldn’t have the traditional ceremony at the [Sheetka Kwaan] Na Kahidi,” he said. “But that’s what makes this one extra special.”
And Maggie Gallin delivered a message to graduates, encouraging students to keep asking questions- and know that that’s a part of growing up.
“My hope and dream for each of you is that you have a mind that’s curious to know more, and a heart that isn’t afraid to ask,” she said. “Ask each other, ask yourselves, ask your higher power. Ask your family, your friends, your teachers, ask them all of the incredible questions that you’re wanting to know. Ask for help, ask for information. Ask to be treated the way you deserve. Ask so you can challenge and change things for the better.”
And like all Pacific High Graduations, the floor was then opened up for family and loved ones to share their hopes and dreams for students.
And at the end of the nearly two hour ceremony, Drake’s “God’s Plan” played, as the students moved their tassels over and celebrated.
For the first time, that is. Principal Summer said the class of 2020 will be the first to get not one, but two graduation ceremonies. The next one will be in person, she said, as soon as they can.