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How one UA student and her family are facing the abnormalities of the 2021 graduation

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Marin Almendarez, who will be graduating with a BA in film and television this May. Courtesy  Marin Almendarez  

Over the past year, Zoom has become the norm for almost everyone. From classes to celebrations, clicking “join Zoom” on our computers to participate in major events has become habit. For the class of 2020, this was the case for their graduation ceremony. Students across the United States virtually congratulated one another through their computer screens as their time in college came to an end. The class of 2021 has undergone similar struggles throughout the semester, but they'll have more options for their graduation this May.

For University of Arizona graduates, there will be an in-person graduation this spring, although it will look vastly different from those of the past. According to the UA's commencement webpage, the UA will “celebrate the Class of 2021 with a series of in-person ceremonies between May 11 and May 18. Up to four guests will be allowed per graduate.”

This news comes with mixed emotions from students. Some feel that the prospect of walking across the stage is cause for celebration and others are frustrated with the limit of four guests per graduate. 

Marin Almendarez is a senior studying film and television, and this May she will join her classmates to graduate in-person. Almendarez is an out of state student who decided to stay at home this semester, a choice that will cause the upcoming graduation to be her first time back on campus in months. 

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“I will be coming back to walk in person. I figured I would at least allow myself that one bit of normalcy this semester,” Almendarez said. 

When asked if friends and family would be joining her, Almendarez explained that because she is out of state and getting to Tucson requires travel, only a couple family members will be able to make it. 

“My dad will be coming, but my mom is pretty weary of traveling. She hasn’t traveled yet during [COVID-19], but my dad has traveled for business throughout this entire thing, so he is less worried about that,” Almendarez said. 

When asked about ways in which she plans to celebrate, Almendarez explained that she knows it won’t be a normal celebration, but she is hopeful to at least see some friends.

“I have the first dose of the vaccine and by the time graduation comes around, I will have the second dose. I hope that a lot of my friends who have the second dose as well will maybe go out to dinner with me," Almendarez said. “I know that after graduation, my dad wants to get food but that’s pretty much all. Being out of state, it’s hard. I have to get back to Texas safely somehow, so I really won’t be on campus that long.”

In general, Almendarez said she is excited to have a relatively traditional time and walk across the stage, but she touched on her shock that the UA is allowing for such a large event.

“I am really excited that it’s all-in person, but I am super surprised. I am happy that they are allowing guests, but I am pretty shocked so many will be allowed into the stadium. I like the relative normal-ness of it and the fact my dad will get to see me walk across the stage is cool,” Almendarez said. 

Even with the ability to participate in in-person commencement, Almendarez did not hesitate to mention the sadness she feels ending the school year on such abnormal terms.

“It has been a really weird senior year not being on campus and not even being in Arizona. I guess my main gripe with the whole year is that. I know that I could have come back but for so many out of state students it just isn’t that easy. I do feel a little bit lost in the fact that I never had that normal senior year experience. I never saw friends or professors or campus,” Almendarez said.  

Almendarez's mother, Keri Almendarez, had a similar response to the situation. Keri reflected on how upsetting it is watching her children graduate in such strange circumstances. 

“My heart aches for 2020-21 seniors. Although I know they’re trying to have in-person graduations, it will not feel the same as in the past. But I’m grateful that the school is moving forward with an in-person graduation so that some of those memories or moments can be captured, even if they’ll be different,” Keri Almendarez said. 

Keri Almendarez said she wishes attending in-person graduation was an option, however she feels certain precautions would need to be in place for that to happen. 

“I would love to attend, but since it’s out of state for me and I’m a teacher, it’s just not possible. I would only want to attend if certain restrictions are kept in place, though,” Keri Almendarez said.

Marin Almendarez ’s father, Mack Almendarez, will attend graduation and he remarked on his excitement for the celebration. 

“Because of the pandemic, it doesn’t seem to be as extravagant or as large as a normal graduation. Regardless, it’s still such an important day, and I’m excited that I’m able to attend,” Mack Almendarez said. 

Marin Almendarez and her families’ views are just one in a sea of students facing the challenges that graduating during the 2020-21 school year bring. With remote learning, a limited social scene and little access to a normal graduation, this year’s seniors are battling an issue that will likely affect them for years.

As the first day of commencement festivities grows closer, the UA prepares for a safe celebrations. With thousands of vaccines distributed and plans for social distancing in place, it appears this year’s graduation will be a small glimpse of normal. More information on graduation restrictions and general comments can be found at commencement.arizona.edu.  


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (9/21)
993 29 2.9%
Total (8/2)
23,557 463 2.0%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated September 21, 2021