News | March 17th, 2020

Graduation Isn’t Just Graduation For These FAMU Seniors

By: Aiyana Ishmael
Graduation Isn’t Just Graduation For These FAMU Seniors

What started as a viral outbreak in Wuhan, China has now turned into a full blown pandemic. A case of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has now been reported in every state across North America. According to the Florida Department of Health there have been 192 positive cases for COVID-19 in Florida.

Leon County officially declared a state of emergency on March 16, 2020. Florida A&M University released a statement announcing in-person classes will transition to remote and online learning methods for the remainder of the semester.

And while the safety of faculty, students and administrators is of the most concern many graduating seniors feel as though they are missing out on a right of passage.

“Graduation means the world to me,” Nakia Grant, a graduating psychology student, said. “I’m a first generation American and college student. I’m the oldest daughter of an immigrant woman from Jamaica. Graduation isn’t just for me but for my whole family. My degree represents my ancestors’ hard work, blood and tears.”

FAMU is ranked the No.1 historically black college or university for producing African-American bachelor’s degrees from the Diverse: Issues in Higher Education’s annual list. So, for many students graduation means so much more than a diploma. It’s the beginning of a new cycle in their family lineage.

“Graduation means the most to me,” Kyra Freeman, a graduating biology, pre-medicine student said. “I’ll be the second person after my mom to graduate. It saddens me knowing my commencement date has been postponed. I think many people may be upset because many FAMU students are first generation and have broken generational curses. College is not easy. Graduating is a humongous milestone.”

The decision to transition to online learning and postponement of graduation was a choice made from higher ups over FAMU. The State University System of Florida released a statement which included:

“Traditional on-campus commencement ceremonies will not be held in May. Instead, each university is directed to develop an alternate schedule or method of delivery.”

FAMU has not announced whether graduation will be postponed nor have they stated what steps will be taken in regards to the commencement ceremony.

Seniors everywhere are experiencing the sudden hurdle into post-grad life, without getting the proper send-off. For many their hard work to get to this point is now short lived.

“My entire family has poured so much into me over the last 21 years, and graduating from undergrad represents a launching pad into the endless possibilities of my future,” senior political science student, Taylor Hall, said. “I’ve been through a lot at FAMU, and walking across that stage means that my bad days did not outweigh the good. It’s one thing to graduate from college, but it’s another to graduate from FAMU.”

And while the news is upsetting, students still feel like the university is making the best decisions to benefit them.

“I believe the university is doing a good job,” Grant said. “The university is not fully closed due to the fact that not everyone has a home to go back to. They could’ve sent us packing like Harvard or Howard did to their students but campus is still open, venom is still running and residence halls are open.”

Younger students at the university as of late have been trying to make light of the situation. But, the seniors feel as though so much has happened to them during their matriculation that the canceling of graduation was the last straw.

“This is a moment people have been waiting on and just the overall insensitive comments and jokes are gross,” Grant said. “FAMU ‘20 along with the rest of the graduating seniors of the world deserve better. A young man passed away recently and his friends were looking forward to graduating themselves. To have this plus his death happen to them is heartbreaking. I’m praying for everyone including myself.’

Grant works as a resident assistant for the university and is deemed an essential employee. That means she must remain on campus being that resident halls are still open to students. She claims that the coronavirus disease has made the ending of her senior year horrible and she prays this nightmare ends fast.

COVID-19 ultimately has ended college and high school seniors journey early. The traditions and memories that come with graduating are no longer something these students get to look forward to. Their chapter is being cut short, but they’re all just trying to make the most of this unique experience.

“This is not how any of us imagined our academic journey at FAMU would end or any state university,” graduating agribusiness student,  Rochard Moricette, said. “We didn’t get a chance to truly celebrate with our peers, enjoy a commencement ceremony, or simply say goodbye to our friends and favorite faculty. It’s tough but we have to make the most of the situation and leave on a high note.”