Approximately 1,000 fall graduates and 300 returning spring graduates walked across the stage at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium on Dec. 14 at four different graduation ceremonies.
COVID-19 guidelines were upheld and followed at the graduation. Each graduate’s seat was spaced 6 feet apart and all graduates were required to wear face masks.
COVID-19 guidelines and procedures for the ceremony were also displayed on two big screens to remind graduates and their guests to abide by regulations in order to keep them safe during the celebration.
Despite graduates only being able to purchase four tickets for their guests, the Bazemore-Hyder Stadium bleachers were almost filled up with graduates’ friends and family.
Each graduate received a complimentary goody bag. Alexandra Brown graduated with a B.F.A. in theatre and was pleased to find a goody bag under her chair filled with the graduation program, hand sanitizer and a gift from the VSU Alumni Association.
While this graduation was able to be held face to face, there were still virtual presentations played throughout the program. The VSU Spotlight group sung the National Anthem and the Alma mater song in a recorded video. This year’s guest speakers were multiple VSU distinguished alumna who also shared positive messages through a series of videos.
Jacob Bell, former SGA president was among the many students who returned to cross the stage after spring graduation was canceled. As a first-generation college student, Bell said he was happy to be able to celebrate his achievement even through a non-traditional way.
“It feels really exciting. This is certainly different from what we imagined but different is better than canceled, he said. “I’m grateful to have the invitation to come back.”
Bell graduated from the College of Business Administration with an economics degree last semester.
Amea Thompson, former SGA Vice president also returned to formally receive her degree in communications. Although she was happy to be a part of this year’s fall graduation, she was overcome with emotions when she set foot back in Valdosta.
“It’s quite overwhelming,” Thompson said. “Stepping on this field is kind of emotional having an opportunity in the midst of everything that’s going on. Honestly, I’m grateful that VSU has offered us to get a chance to walk across that stage and celebrate, so I’m excited.”
Sandra Gonzales graduated with an accounting degree this semester and raised her four kids while working for her degree. She said she owes much of her success to her support system and her drive to overcome all the challenges that she came across in her undergraduate career.
“I am very excited, it’s something that’s almost surreal to me,” she said. “Growing up in foster care and always having so much negativity thrown at me, (graduating) is something that I did not expect to accomplish, but I never stopped believing in myself, and I’m very excited to be (graduating).”
Gonzales advises future graduates to stay motivated and keep going forward on the road to graduation.
“Always believe in yourself,” she said. “Don’t wait for someone else to do it. You have to put in the effort, and you have to believe in yourself. And always use the resources that are available to you. I believe that VSU has a lot of great resources here on campus. Definitely stay involved and never stop believing in yourself.”
Story and photos courtesy of Lenah Allen, Editor-in-Chief.