By Damon Washington
You remember your graduation, right? Family and friends coming together (some traveling from afar) to witness as you received your diploma. You were celebrated for the milestone occasion and celebrated because your hard work and dedication paid off—you accomplished your goal. On the day of your commencement, you lined up with your classmates and marched into an auditorium or onto the school field, more than likely with Pomp and Circumstance being played. You were excited the day had arrived, whether you were graduating from a private or public school; from elementary, middle, or high school; or from college or postgraduate studies. This was your day, the culmination of your hard work. You heard various speeches as you patiently waited for your diploma or degree to be conferred. You may not remember all the words said, but you remember the excitement and celebration.
The recent pandemic has changed everything. The entire world has come to a standstill; physical distancing has become the new norm. You must be at least six feet from the nearest person, and you must wear a mask. This on top of government orders to stay at home in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Businesses closed, schools closed, and even church physical doors closed because of this pandemic. For the resilient Class of 2020, this meant no traditional commencement programs.
Karen Schneider expressed her understanding of this unusual situation: “Any graduation is an important milestone in a child’s life. In the face of this new normal, these children persevered.” But how could the Nevada-Utah Conference (NUC) recognize the work of its graduates? Karen continued, “Through the virtual graduation, we were able to show our support for their accomplishments. Nevada-Utah Conference cares.”
The NUC decided that graduation was too important—in some fashion, graduates needed to be celebrated and recognized. Efforts began to organize a virtual graduation, with the assistance of NUC Superintendent of Education Fernando Lista; Director of Literature Ministries Joseph Cadiz; Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries Darriel Hoy; and Director of the Volunteer Lay Pastor Ministry and Reno-Riverview and Truckee (Calif.) Associate Pastor Damon Washington.
Each graduate from across the NUC territory was asked to submit a video of themselves that included their name, where they were graduating from, and what their next steps will be. And they were encouraged to be creative in how they filmed their videos.
On June 4, the NUC held its first-ever virtual graduation for the entire conference, recognizing the hard work and achievement for all its graduates in the Class of 2020. Executive Secretary Carlos Camacho had this to say about the experience: “Because of COVID-19 we got to celebrate and congratulate every single graduate around the Nevada-Utah Conference. We recognize that behind every graduate there was a lot of effort and hard work, and we wanted to reach all of them; a virtual graduation was the answer.”
Special messages were given by NUC President Leon Brown; Elder Camacho; Pastor Darriel Hoy; Young Adult Coordinator and Sparks, Nev., Pastor Neat Randriamialison; and Pastor Damon Washington. The pastors from the various churches in NUC with graduates also provided congratulatory messages to their members. The graduation ceremony included special music from Pastor Ryan Johnson, Cristel Escobar, and Jeff Cruz.
Fernando Lista sent this message to the graduates: “Congratulations Graduating Class of 2020! I wish you the richest blessings from above as each and every one of you move on to the next education level! God has great plans for you! It’s going to be exciting! Jeremiah 29:11.”
Elder Brown praised the graduates with this message: “The 2020 graduating class will forever be the class we will remember. No other graduating class in history has ever had to have a virtual graduation. This was an extraordinary graduation for extraordinary graduates. We are so proud of you! Congratulations!”
We pray that this is the last virtual graduation, but if the time arises again, we will make sure our graduates have an opportunity to celebrate their achievements with their loved ones near and far. The NUC extends its warmest congratulations to the distinguished Class of 2020!