Revved up for graduation

Despite student protests, the VUSD drive-through graduations received favorable reactions from graduates

VISALIA – Before recent protests against social injustice began erupting around the world, students in Visalia were protesting to have their voices heard by administration.

Some senior students were unhappy about Visalia Unified School District’s plan to cancel traditional graduation ceremonies this year and replace them with drive-through ceremonies in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The ceremonies ran smoothly last week, but some students wanted to have more of a voice in the decision-making process.

At the May 26 VUSD board meeting, Redwood High School senior McKenna Martin voiced her frustrations.

“Not only did we lose the end of senior year, spending our last days in class with friends, grad night, prom, senior scream, yearbook signing night and other fun activities hosted by our schools, but we also lost something important to us that we worked our entire school year for – graduation,” Martin said.

“When we heard what the district had planned for our graduation, we were extremely disappointed. Students at VUSD held a protest today because we were not a part of the decision-making process.”

After experiencing the alternative graduation ceremonies, some students were just thankful to have a ceremony instead of it being cancelled altogether.

“They did the best that they could with a bad situation. You can tell that the staff felt bad and that they really cared. I’m grateful for the 12 years I had at VUSD but I think that we probably should have been a part of the conversation a little bit more about the graduation because they did it all without us,” Redwood senior Kirsten Cobarruvias said.

Some students were beyond impressed at how the event materialized.

“I was very surprised that they put a lot of work and commitment into it. When I saw all my teachers I started crying, so it was very emotional,” Mt. Whitney senior Marissa Maldonado said.

Some students actually preferred this ceremony over the traditional format.

“I really liked it, it was not what I expected at all. It blew my mind seeing how much time and effort they spent on it. I was not expecting the music, [decorations], and all the teachers to be here,” Redwood senior Alyssa Fierro said. “I didn’t like that the students were protesting and now seeing how it all played out, I’m glad I didn’t get to walk the stage because I like this way better. I wasn’t as nervous and I was with my family the whole time.”

Revved up for graduation

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