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An extra special homecoming for the class of 2020

For the class of 2020, this year's homecoming celebration doubles as their graduation ceremony

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Tia Stephens | The Daily Wildcat

A 2020 graduate shades their face with a customized graduation cap during the 2020 Commencement Ceremony at the mall on Nov. 5. The ceremony was held during this year's Homecoming a year and a half after students received their diplomas in May 2020 as the original ceremony was canceled on account of the pandemic.   

For many students who graduated in 2020, finding out that they would not be able to walk across the stage to receive their degree was heart crushing. But after months of waiting, the class of 2020 were finally able to celebrate at the 2020 Graduation Celebration on Nov. 5 on the University of Arizona Mall.

“It’s kind of surreal, I didn’t know I was gonna be nervous because it’s been so long, but I started getting nervous. I definitely feel proud of myself,” said Victoria Castro, a family studies and human development major. 

Nearly 1,000 students and over 3,000 guests gathered east of Old Main on the UA mall. By 4 p.m., the sun beamed down on the 2020 bachelor, master and doctorate graduates. Students mingled amongst each other, using their caps to shield themselves from the sun. 

“It’s really rewarding getting to be here and then having my family come see. Especially being from a low-income family, it’s been a really great experience, to ... be able to be here and further along my generation,” said Lourdes Barrandey, a graduate with a degree in education. 

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President Dr. Robert C. Robbins’ opening remarks and the powerful performance of the national anthem by UA alumni Naphtali Curry and Russell Ronnebaum, which had the crowd cheering, were followed by a series of speeches before the graduates’ names were announced one by one. 

The ceremony came over a year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced any large public gathering to be held virtually. However, the class of 2020 wasn’t going down without a fight, or at least a graduation ceremony. 

“My friend Cameron Harper and I had actually tried to get commencement, instead of canceled, we tried to make it get postponed instead so we made an entire presentation and we ended up pitching it to the commencement committee,” said Reyna Helfgott-Waters, a double major in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. “We sat on lots of meetings with them so it was great to actually see it come to fruition and be able to celebrate with them.” 

Kaitlyn Ng, a friend of Helfgott-Waters since their freshman year and a graduate with a marketing and management degree, was a part of the effort to have an in-person graduation ceremony. 

“We made a little survey a couple years ago … we definitely used our marketing degree,” said Ng.

But with a delayed celebration on the university’s part came a historic moment in UA graduation ceremonies, as this was the first time in more than 100 years that graduation was celebrated with the iconic backdrop of the Old Main building, the first-ever building of the university. 

“It feels great honestly. I know that we’ve waited a long time for this, didn't know if it was going to happen or not. Loved that they put this on for us and to walk down the mall is actually pretty cool, too,” said Ray Ochoa, a graduate with a bachelor's of architecture. 

Another graduate, Sabrina Huaraque, who obtained a degree in electrical engineering, said, “It feels pretty special. I’ve been looking forward to this day for a while and I have my family here so that means a lot.”

The night ended with red, white and blue fireworks lighting up the dark sky. Cheers erupted everywhere as, at last, the class of 2020 got the celebration they deserved. 


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (12/8)
669 11 1.6%
Total (8/2)
66,070 1,065 1.6%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated December 8, 2021