BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — While the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over yet, some restrictions are loosening, with Some schools and universities deciding to hold in-person graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2021.
On Saturday, UAB held an outdoor graduation ceremony. Last year’s ceremony was canceled due to the pandemic. The ceremony this year was held at Legion Field, instead of Bartow Arena. Administrators felt this was the best option, holding the event outside and allowing families to social distance.
“I’m very, very excited that UAB is allowing us to graduate in-person,” said Lexi Long, a graduating senior.
Last spring, UAB decided to hold a virtual graduation ceremony instead of an in-person celebration due to the pandemic. This year’s ceremony was broken down into two days.
“We also have masks that will be required for everyone so we’re following all the health and safety protocols. We’re cleaning in between the ceremony, making sure we’re providing the safest possible environment, and having it outside which also reduces the risk,” said Pam Benoit, provost at UAB.
Many of the students at the ceremony had a year like no other transitioning from in-person to online learning.
“That was pretty difficult. I didn’t sign up for online nursing school,” Long said.
Long and her sister, Abbi, are two of the nearly 2,000 students who were able to participate in the in-person graduation ceremony.
The Long sisters say they wouldn’t trade the college experience they had. Mentors and teachers go above and beyond to make every lesson count.
“They’ve been really accommodating and really great about makings sure that we can get the best experience that we can in this kind of situation, even if it’s not the same as it used to be,” Abbi Long said.
Now it’s on to the next chapter for the graduating class of 2021 and their sights are set on success.
“I’ll be pursuing a PhD in nursing starting this fall. I will also hopefully be working part-time in the hospital as a nurse,” Lexi Long said.
Abbi Long said she will keep doing research at UAB as well and then will head off to graduate school hopefully in the future.
Also in attendance at UAB’s graduation ceremonies were around 400 students who virtually graduated in 2020 and wanted to get the opportunity to celebrate their hard work by walking in cap and gowns.