Catholic high schools, colleges adapt graduations in light of pandemic

By Daniel Charland

Witness Correspondent

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated since it was originally posted online and published in print to reflect changes since then.

DYERSVILLE — It’s no secret that the current COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the measures taken by authorities in response to it, have placed limitations on the daily life of the average person. Equally affected are the “once in a lifetime” events that fall during this time, such as weddings, holidays, and graduations.

For the high schools and colleges of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, the problem of how to handle their previously scheduled graduations has been tackled in different ways, such as by delaying ceremonies or ensuring medical safety measures are taken when they do occur.

While some high schools have already had their graduation ceremonies, others are still weighing options on how best to proceed. Beckman Catholic High School in Dyersville is planning to have graduation exercises on Sunday, July 12. According to Beckman’s principal, Marcel Kielkucki, the school is doing its best to consider the input of all affected groups.

“We have a committee comprised of students, parents, and staff currently meeting to plan how we will be able to have this on that day,” said Kielkucki. “With the changing situation, we are developing plans for that day based on a number of circumstances and factors.  However, our goal is to have this be an in-person experience.”

One of the students on this planning group, Erin Bonert, demonstrated gratitude to her school for the care they are taking to plan the graduation, as well as the lessons she’s taking away from this experience.

Tyler Reid, a member of Xavier’s class of 2020, receives her diploma at the door of her home from Angela Olson, principal of the Catholic high school in Cedar Rapids, as Reid’s family watches.  (Photo provided by Xavier Catholic High School)

“Overall, I feel Beckman Catholic is doing whatever they can to make up for the time we lost,” stated Bonert. “I am thankful to have come from a school that cares enough about their students to do what they can to ensure we receive the graduation we all have been waiting for. As I step into the next chapter of my life I know it is not going to be easy or fair. With that being said, graduating under these circumstances has only showed me how to overcome challenges and the unfair things that I am going to be faced with!”

In Bellevue, the graduates of Marquette Catholic High School were able to have a private in-person graduation on May 24, the day it was originally scheduled. Working closely with the Jackson County Health Department, the ceremony was carefully planned to avoid any health risks and streamed live on the internet to allow others to view from a safe distance. After the ceremony, seniors were given the opportunity to share some of their memories and advice for younger students in video clips that were also livestreamed.

“For the people coming into high school, I’d just like to say, take advantage of what Marquette offers,” said Nick Hager, one of Marquette’s graduates, to the online audience. “I was going to do soccer this year; My last year … it got cut short. If you’ve got an opportunity to do something when you’re in high school and you’re saving it, I would do it right away because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Marquette currently plans to host a “Class of 2020 Celebration” for the late summer so the entire school community can celebrate.

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