HARLINGEN — “Ecstatic.”

That’s how Evelyn Perez feels about celebrating her in-person graduation ceremony from Harlingen School of Health Professions.

This time last year, seniors at Harlingen’s four public high schools were grappling with the loss of so many milestones because of the pandemic. There were no proms, and graduation ceremonies took place online. There was no walk across the stage, until later in the summer when many had left for college.

This year’s seniors got their proms, and administrators are delighted to resume in-person graduation ceremonies.

“We’re very excited that we’re going to be able to offer in-person graduation for our seniors and their families,” said Joseph Villarreal, assistant superintendent for secondary education.

“We know it’s been a difficult year and we want to make it as special as possible,” Villarreal said. “We’re trying to make it as traditional an experience as possible.”

When it comes to a student’s senior year and graduation, tradition is everything. Evelyn is happy to have hers. Evelyn, this year’s salutatorian at HSHP, had feared a repeat of last year’s restrictions.

“I was honestly very scared that we wouldn’t have an in-person graduation,” said Evelyn, 18. “I knew I didn’t want to see my name on the TV in a PowerPoint form. I wanted to actually walk on stage and get my diploma and say my speech because it’s been a tough year for all of us.”

And so she will June 12, when she and her fellow graduates celebrate their accomplishments at the Harlingen Performing Arts Conservatory, Villarreal said.

Harlingen High School South will graduate that same day at Boggus Stadium. Harlingen High School will also graduate at Boggus on June 11. Early College High School graduates Friday at the PAC.

“We’ve limited the number of seats that are available per family for both the PAC and Boggus Stadium,” Villarreal said. “We’re still abiding by any sort of guidelines and protocols whether it be State of Texas or the Centers for Disease Control.”

The specter of virtual commencements, however, concerned Zena Arocena.

“I was ready to deal with it because they have to do it for the safety of other people and I totally understand that,” said Zena, who will graduate Friday from ECHS.

“I just feel very fortunate to be able to do it in person,” said Zena, 18. “It’s going to be awesome; it’s going to be nice. It’s going to be my third time being on campus the entire year. I’m excited to see everybody. It’s going to be great seeing everybody, especially on such a special day that I will remember forever.”

Tina Garza, principal at HSHP, looks forward to seeing her seniors graduate.

“We had our in-person prom two weekends ago and that was tremendous,” Garza said. “They are ready for this graduation as well so it was very invigorating seeing their kinship rekindled.”

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