Class of 2020 to graduate in virtual time

HARLINGEN — Adjust, adapt, overcome.

Those three words describe Harlingen’s Class of 2020, which has demonstrated its capacity for innovation in the midst of the pandemic. They’ve had to give up end of year school activities and the prom and complete their final coursework online. Many have wondered, “What about graduation?”

The Harlingen school district is now planning virtual commencement ceremonies for each graduating class. Last week, Harlingen Superintendent Art Cavazos recorded a message to seniors commending their response to such stressful times.

“While this is not how we imagined your senior year would come to a close, I’m proud to witness the true spirit and resilience of your generation,” Cavazos said. “As the class of 2020, you are living through a moment in history that is defining who you are and how you show strength during challenging times.”

Seniors throughout the district at once revealed their disappointment and optimism and their determination to persevere.

“I think that the virtual graduation, while it is probably not everyone’s expected graduation, is a testament to how we have to adapt to the times,” said Catherine Duncan, valedictorian for Harlingen High School South.

“Though it’s a bit unorthodox, it’s something that will make our graduating year unique and historic,” she said. “I’m really appreciative the district was able to put together something that allowed us to celebrate this milestone, despite the circumstances. It is definitely an event I am bound to remember in the future.”

William Herring, senior class president at Harlingen High School, was looking forward to throwing his cap into the air at the conclusion of his graduation ceremony.

“After waiting all of these years for a real graduation it’s kind of disappointing,” he said. “But I really appreciate that they are having an online graduation. As the class president, I would have been able to speak at graduation, so probably that’s what I’ll miss most.”

Both he and Catherine, as well as other student leaders, school administrators and board members, will pre-record their speeches to be played online during the virtual ceremony.

“We will still have our students speak,” said Shane Strubhart, spokesperson for the district.

“It’ll be the class president, the valedictorian and the salutatorian who will still give their remarks,” Strubhart said. “In addition, we’ll have congratulatory remarks from the board of trustees. Dr. Cavazos will certify the graduates for 2020.”

Strubhart said the district is reaching out to individuals to submit videos of their speeches, but the main objective of the moment is for students to send in pictures.

“We have worked out the details and so what we are asking seniors to do is submit a photo that we can use for their virtual graduation,” he said. “It can be a cap and gown photo. It can be a baby picture which is popular for some of the other promotional ceremonies. Or it can be a personal senior portrait.”

Strubhart said the ceremony will be live streamed on the school district’s YouTube channel and Facebook page. Students will soon receive instructions on how to watch the ceremony on TV. Still, as anyone would agree, it’s just not the same.

“I’ll miss most saying our proper goodbyes because I was hoping to give my last hugs to my friends and saying my last thank yous to all my teachers,” said Kayla Ellorimo, salutatorian for this year’s graduating class at Harlingen School of Health Professions.

“I was really looking forward to making that speech in front of all my friends and family,” she said.

But, as what seems to be typical of generation COVID, she’s taking it all in stride and remaining grateful for what she has.

“Really, I’m glad we’re in a school district that is working hard to make us feel as celebrated as possible in a time like this,” she said.

For more information about virtual graduation, see the following website: