Let’s Make It Happen: Civic Center Steps Up to Make Graduation Successful While Practicing Social Distancing

When the pandemic caused the cancellation of more than 20 graduations in May and June, it affected not only the eager graduates, but left the Civic Center quiet and empty during an extremely busy time of year. Normally approximately 24,000 people come through the doors during this time. The Civic Center accommodated these canceled events by allowing them to choose back-up dates in July and August with no penalties. When those dates started coming near, it was clear the pandemic was not over and the events would need to cancel once again.

When E-institute Graduation asked if they could use our parking lot for their graduation, Event Coordinator, Teresa Hawthorne and Operations Coordinator Adam Muller knew they could make it happen. The plan began to form by setting the route up along a tree lined and shaded driveway where faculty and staff could cheer on the graduates as they drove by in their cars with all their family aboard. A portable sound system playing “Pomp and Circumstance” in the background. The graduate would stop in front of the stage, where they would hop out adorned with face mask and mortar board and cross the stage to receive their diploma.

This event was such a success that Teresa began reaching out to all the previous 2020 graduations to relay the idea of a “Drive-By Graduation”. Within minutes she began receiving e-mails of interest from schools that had nearly given up on the hope of having any graduation. The smiling faces and cheers of encouragement brought gratification to the Civic Center staff in being able to help this community out in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic.