The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

CHS holds broadcast graduation ceremony


June 21, 2020

Kevin Wilson

Asia Casarez delivers the invocation during the opening minutes of the Clovis High School graduation.

CLOVIS - After 13 years of K-12 instruction, marked by a pandemic that moved schooling online in April, Clovis High School's class of 2020 met across town from their familiar campus for a commencement that was quite unfamiliar.

Faith Christian Family Church was the site Friday night for an airing of a pre-recorded commencement of about 90 minutes, with an audience of the CHS seniors that met every requirement despite the interruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students have not returned inside the familiar CHS buildings since March 13. The following week, the school began three weeks off in hopes that would do enough to limit virus spread. The Public Education Department determined the three weeks did not do enough, and moved to an online instruction model for the remainder of the year while extending the deadline to June 19 for seniors to meet standard graduation requirements.

The graduation video aired at three locations in the city, with the church parking lot reserved for seniors and any family members in the same vehicle. Family and friends with tickets could attend at either the Red Arrow or Curry County Events Center parking lots. The normal graduation ceremony that packs the inside of the events center was not allowed due to restrictions on mass gatherings during the pandemic.

At the church, participants could enter either through Norris Street or Llano Estacado Boulevard. Upon entry, the graduates were congratulated, shown where to park and told to tune the car radio to 103.3 FM.

Austin Barcenas and his family arrived early in the 90 minutes scheduled for parking, and got a seat in the second row of cars. Barcenas, who plans to enter the welding program at Clovis Community College, said that even now the circumstances of his senior year are strange. He said he misses the simple things like going with his friends to the nearby Dollar General at lunch for a bag of chips and a can of Jumex.

Regarding having a graduation broadcast in a parking lot instead of the standard ceremony, Barcenas noted, "I was kind of sad about it, but it's something."

On the other end of the row, Katrina Garcia was waiting for showtime with her family. Garcia was part of the inaugural eight-person graduating class at the district's iAcademy. The pandemic wasn't much of a disruption to her studies because iAcademy was already doing online instruction. While she didn't like the way graduation had to be presented, "I feel like (the iAcademy) was better for me than the high school."

Garcia plans to attend CCC, and has applied for the nursing program.

The video started with a blending of videos with CHS Principal Jay Brady and various CHS graduates catching a graduation cap on their left, reciting segments of Dr. Seuss' "Oh the Places You'll Go" and tossing the cap to their right. From there it went to an introduction where Brady called the ceremony a way to honor a senior class that "triumphed and persevered over circumstances beyond their control."

In his speech on the class' past, Skyler Segura noted he and his classmates were born in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and graduated in the middle of a pandemic.

"No other class is built for that," Segura said.

"Before all of this chaos began, we were in this thing called high school where our class accomplished some pretty big things," Kunal Puppala said in the speech on the class' present. "Although we participated in many different activities, there was a lot we had in common as well. We breathed the same air, we walked the same halls, we sat in the same desks and we all hid our phones when Miss Spearman (Alicia, assistant principal) entered the room."

He said he and his classmates could view their CHS years as the best or worst of their lives, but insisted they should not be defined by them.

Yasmine Larrea, speaking on the class' future noted "a different kind of resiliency" to the 2020 class and that God indeed would be with her and her classmates no matter what their post-CHS plans were.

"Your desire," Larrea said, "has the potential to change lives, to save families, to make the world a better place and to allow the future generations to believe in themselves."

In a challenge to the class, Alixiana Pena implored her classmates to accomplish their dreams and make changes to the world that will inspire future generations. She noted a traditional ceremony and other rites of passages have been taken away from the class by the pandemic, but countered that one only grows through facing and overcoming difficult moments and situations.

"The ultimate measure of a man," Pena said, "is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Graduate walks and the various speeches were recorded last month on a stage set up in the main Clovis High courtyard. Post filming work included reordering the graduate walk segments into alphabetical order and re-recording the names of each graduate because the recordings made in the courtyard were often compromised by wind or the sounds of traffic along Purdue and Thornton streets.

As a condition of getting the ticket, families were instructed not to bring noisemakers or honk horns during the ceremony. That, however, soon fell by the wayside after everybody realized each graduate's video segment was long enough that a few honks of the car horn wouldn't spill into the next graduate's segment.

Many of the families left after their graduate was announced, and the count was around three dozen cars at the end that either had late-alphabet last names or really wanted to hear the school song in closing. The video closed just after 9:35, and the parking lot was clear by 9:40.

Less than 25 cars were reported at both of the alternate locations, but district officials were glad they at least erred on the side of too many screening options.

The largest viewing took place online, as the commencement was simultaneously broadcast on Facebook Live. As of Saturday morning, that video had more than 11,000 views and 400 comments that mostly tagged graduates.


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