Layla Graham graduating high school in 2020 | Photo courtesy of Layla Graham

Class of 2024 graduates post-pandemic

By Emily Perez, May 14, 2024

With Commencement just around the corner, Cal Poly Pomona’s class of 2024 gears up for a momentous occasion that signifies more than just the end of their academic journey, but represents overcoming the challenges posed by COVID-19. 

The Commencement ceremony marks a milestone for the class of 2024, as many have awaited the opportunity to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas. 

For some students, this will be their first and only graduation experience, as the class of 2020 had their high school commencements disrupted by the pandemic.

With an expected turnout of 62,000 attendees spread across 12 ceremonies over four days, the event will honor the accomplishments of more than 6,900 graduates.

“This will be a big, grand event that recognizes all the graduates’ accomplishments,” said Cynthia Peters, interim associate director of Media Relations. 

According to Biola University, the commencement team has elevated its activities this year in celebration of the graduates of 2024. 

To commemorate the lost ceremony of 2020, Biola gave their graduating students the chance to make tassels in the same color as their high school tassels. 

Alongside this touching gesture students were treated to other special surprises, including appearances by social media mogul Zach King and Biola alums to deliver the address at both commencement ceremonies.

No such activities are planned for CPP, but it hasn’t stopped students from sharing their excitement.

With Commencement days away, students reflected on their pandemic graduations, which were historic in their own ways. 

Layla Graham, a sociology student, revisited her experience as a high school graduate with the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We had a quick drive-thru graduation ceremony where we got out of our cars, handed our diploma, walked across a makeshift stage on the school’s front steps and were hurried away,” Graham said. “We also had a day where a slide graduation was played through Zoom for graduating seniors, which was very dystopian, … but it all felt a bit incomplete.”

Graham reflected on the chance to finally be celebrated like never before. 

“It just feels even more like a full-circle moment and a nice way to conclude my academic journey,” said Graham. “I’m excited to have my family there, friends I’ve made in my department and my best friend there to watch me. It feels more final, but also like a beautiful moment to finally have. 

“I have planned to do a self-shoot for graduation pictures with one of my best friends, we figured it would be more affordable and way more fun to make a whole day out of it,” Graham said. “I’m also wrapping things up with celebration events for campus clubs I’m part of and within the sociology department on campus.”

Timothy Soetojo, an electrical engineering student, echoed similar sentiments about the challenges posed by the pandemic. 

“COVID didn’t allow me to experience my high school graduation and made classes online for my first two years in college,” said Soetojo. “It was kind of difficult to get back into going to classes like high school after COVID, but life is all about change and how you can overcome it.”

Despite the challenges and disruptions posed by the pandemic, Soetojo expressed his excitement about participating in his first graduation ceremony. 

“I feel great about graduating,” said Soetojo. “It’ll be my first graduation ceremony that I’ll be able to participate in. I’m excited to see what the future holds, but knowing that this will close a chapter in my life and open a new one, makes me nervous.” 

Looking forward to the future, Commencement ceremonies will not only be a celebration of their academic success but also a testament to the perseverance of the class of 2024.

Feature image courtesy of Layla Graham

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