There was no spring concert, no final night out on the town, and no group pictures with friends in matching caps and gowns. But there are a lifetime of memories that York College graduates are taking with them.
Sarah Galantini has been making a list of her “lasts.” The last time she went out with her friends was St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The last time she saw her roommates was as they packed up, thinking they’d be off campus for two weeks and back again to finish their final year at York College. “I think a lot of us graduating in 2020 are just looking for closure,” she says. Even though her final year of college didn’t end the way she expected, the 2020 York College Class President found her own ways to celebrate commencement.
Saturday, May 16, was supposed to be the day when Galantini and the rest of her graduating class would mark the end of their undergraduate experience. But the COVID-19 outbreak changed that. Instead, she wore her cap and gown in her parents’ Allentown, Pennsylvania home. She sipped champagne and enjoyed brunch. And as the Nursing major mentally prepared for her future work fighting a virus that altered her plans, she wished her classmates farewell in a virtual commencement speech that aired Sunday, May 31.
Pivoting to a virtual commencement was a priority for York College to offer graduating seniors the moment they deserved for their hard work. “It was important that we give students the opportunity to celebrate with their families now, rather than wait until some future date,” says York College President Dr. Pamela Gunter-Smith. “We also wanted to allow students to—in some memorable way—bring closure to their time at York College.”
The virtual commencement included remarks from Galantini, Dr. Gunter- Smith, and Board of Trustees Chair Jeff Hines. Student photos were shared as names were read and displayed on the screen. A stream of submitted comments from family and friends offered the Class of 2020 congratulations and well wishes.
Several York College students submitted videos sharing memories of their time on campus. Kyle Abrahims, a Mechanical Engineering major, was glad he had the chance to help start the NASA Student Launch Club and compete against other schools in Alabama, as well as serve as a manager on the men’s basketball team. Beyond those experiences, he learned the value of connections at York College. “Always be your best self, be your kindest self, and be true to who you are,” he says.
Jessica De La Cruz, a Psychology major, will miss the orientation staff she got to know over the past three years, many of whom she considers to be family. “Although my time here has ended as an undergraduate and YCP has been my home away from home the past four years, I know that I will forever be a Spartan for life,” she declares.
While the COVID-19 pandemic changed graduation plans for York College students, it is not the final memory they have to carry with them. “The pandemic is not your entire story,” Dr. G-S told students. “Yes, it is an important piece of the journey, but it is only one chapter.”