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FGCU seniors describe feelings of “heartbreak” over cancellation of commencement ceremony

Photo courtesy of creative commons. Students throw their caps into the air after graduating. On Tuesday, Mar. 17 the Florida Board of Governors announced that online instruction will continue through the Spring Semester and that Spring commencement ceremonies are canceled.

According to an announcement released by the Florida Board of Governors on Tuesday, Mar. 17, online instruction will continue through the end of the Spring semester for all state university students to mitigate the spread of Covid19.
Spring Commencement ceremonies have also been canceled.
President Martin said in a statement, “we are considering options for celebrating our graduates in a non-traditional way.”
Neither President Martin nor the administration has hinted at what the “non-traditional” commencement might look like.
Below are the thoughts and feelings submitted to Eagle News by FGCU students who were scheduled to walk in the Spring ceremony, as well as a few parents.

Graphic courtesy of creative commons.

“Walking across that stage is so important to me. My Aunt Jenniffer was my biggest supporter, and a week before she passed away from cancer in September, she gave me a pair of earrings and made me promise to not wear them until I was walking across the stage. She was my biggest supporter, and losing her was so hard. I’ve pushed through this year with the knowledge that she would be there with me when I walked across the stage… and now it’s not happening as planned.”

– Hailey Goff, environmental studies major

“As a Senior who is supposed to be walking at this Springs graduation commencement it’s important for me to walk because of what I’ve done to get to this point in my life. After paying thousands of dollars to attend FGCU, working two jobs to afford classes, and exhausting myself after 17 years of schooling to get to one day, it’s kind of a disappointment for that one day to be cancelled. Also I am a first generation college student. To be the first in my family to obtain a bachelors degree and not even receive a commencement ceremony for my achievement? It’s very disheartening and makes it feel like the past four years were a waste.”
– Connor Owens, legal studies major
“I’m sad. You work extremely hard for several years with the goal of walking across that stage. Your parents sacrifice so much and then they won’t even be able to see it. My family [in Germany] already had fights booked for them to come here, but they wouldn’t have been able to enter the country due to the travel ban.”
– Pascal Spork, biology major
“I had family planning for flights and hotels to see me cross the stage. It upsets me because all my work and dedication to this point was going to be celebrated then. Sure, I’ll get my degree. it’s the canceling of the ceremony that hurts the most.”
– Madison Wozniak, social work major
“It is sad to hear that the spring commencement ceremony is canceled. However, it is understandable. Large gathering over ten people are discouraged at this time. There is nothing more validating that you have achieved your goal of attaining at four-year degree then walking across the stage in your cap and gown and thinking, ‘I did it!’ All your dedication and hard work pays off the minute your hands clutch your diploma.”
– Dusty Catala, health science major
“Of course, I understand the preventive measures that need to be taken for our health and safety. However, as a senior, I worked extremely hard to get where I am. I picked up and traveled by myself across the country, 3000 miles away from my family. They have been waiting for this moment for the past four years.
I would like to see FGCU offer alternatives such as ceremonies by schools/departments, to decrease the amount of individuals at each gathering
Or to possibly postpone our commencement and combine it with the Summer commencement, allowing us graduating in Spring to still walk, only 2 months later.”
– Caroline Briones, social work major
“I am the oldest of two, I have a younger brother who is four years younger than me. My brother is experiencing the same heartbreak I am, as he is in his senior year of high school while I am in my senior year of college. My brother is my best friend. I take the responsibility of being an older sibling very seriously, and take being a role model to heart.
Ever since we were young, he has always looked to me for guidance. He has mirrored me, maybe even more than he has mirrored our incredible, strong mother. While being a role model, I took it upon myself to show my brother he can do whatever he sets his mind to. I moved to Florida from Illinois in 2016 to continue my academic career, I moved so far from my family to follow my dreams, and show my brother he could do the same.
I wanted my brother to know nothing can ever get in his way. I continued to show my brother what hard work, dedication, and passion looked like. I continued to work every single day to inspire my brother, to show him he can take on this college thing too. I have worked tirelessly, earning a total of eight 4.0’s (soon to be nine), maintaining a cumulative GPA of above a 3.90, dedicated member of the Honors College, incredible involvement in Greek Life, multiple honors societies, clubs, and more, served on 2 executive boards, completed a voluntary internship, worked multiple part-time jobs, and still made time to spend with friends and family. Walking the stage at my own commencement ceremony gives me just a few seconds to reflect on four years of passion, dedication, drive, determination, sacrifice, and triumph. A few seconds across a stage to show my brother that he can do it too.”
– Jasmine Lollino, public health major
“For me, not walking just makes all of my four years here feel like it was for nothing. It’s like I’ve spent pretty much everything to get to this point and all I’m probably going to get is a diploma in the mail now? It feels like a slap in the face.  I totally understand why it’s being done, I’d rather they do this than let things get worse, but I still feel angry and upset about it all. I just hope that maybe it’ll be rescheduled in the near future because I don’t think I could take not walking.”
– Marjorie Johnston, graphic design major
” I understand that I am not the only one that feels this way, but I am truly heartbroken. I hope the university is able to hold a later commencement, because I find it truly unfortunate that after all my hard work I won’t be able to walk the stage. Walking that stage was my opportunity to make my family and my community proud . I am a first generation student who comes from an immigrant family who came to this country to offer me my education. This degree is to show my pride after I had held 6 different jobs in order to pay tuition. I balanced 40 hours of work and 15 hours of class [each semester] to walk that stage. I know my future will still continue regardless, but I hope FGCU can reassess the situation and decide on a late spring/early summer commencement.”
– Grecia Quiroz, social work major
A few parents weighed in as well. 
“I feel my daughter’s as well as all fellow grads should have the pleasure and graciousness of being honored for such a wonderful milestone and accomplishment. We are all very upset over the cancellation.”
– Brenda Betelho, parent of Cassidy Botelho, majoring in environmental engineering
“As a parent of a senior expected to Graduate this Spring, I am beyond upset at the fact that my daughter has worked so hard these last 4 years and will not get the opportunity to walk in her cap and gown to receive her well-deserved recognition. I understand the circumstances that are going on, but this will pass and things will go back to normal. Canceling such an event at this early stage is ridiculous.”
– Yari Coronado, parent of Yazivette Troche, majoring in health science

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