El Camino College commencement to be virtual once again amid COVID-19

El Camino College’s 74th Annual Commencement Ceremony will be conducted virtually on June 11 at 4 p.m. via Zoom, as the college campus remains closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commencement committee has decided to continue with its plans of holding the ceremony through live-stream, despite other colleges and universities in Los Angeles County who have started holding in-person graduation ceremonies.

“The graduation commencement committee started planning and strategizing for this year’s commencement back in December, that was right at the height of a surge in COVID cases,” Kerri Webb, interim director of public information and government relations said.

Though vaccines are now more readily available and California will be fully reopening on June 15, Webb said the El Camino College District still strongly encourages students and employees to be fully vaccinated as soon as possible as they prioritize the safety of the community before making decisions regarding in-person events.

“We really put in a lot of effort to make this the memorable event that it deserves,” Webb said. “To scratch, everything that we’ve done and try to scramble and put together an in-person commencement months later would just not give the full justice of what the commencement calls for.”

The commencement regalias such as caps and gowns were also available for students to order through the 2021 Commencement website, where graduating students had the choice to get the regalia delivered to their homes or picked up on campus while still observing social distancing and mask-mandating precautions.

“L.A. County Public Health is also somewhat more conservative than the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), in that we are still not quite approved to do things that the CDC now allows such as bigger gatherings,” Holly Fall, nurse practitioner at ECC said. “That is also something to take into consideration.”

Students who have already completed their degrees in 2020 were also invited to participate in this year’s virtual commencement ceremony by submitting their photos, videos and quotes in celebration.

“It’s very unfortunate for the students that such event will only be conducted virtually and I feel bad for them, but on the other hand, public health trumps that,” Fall said. “Hopefully some students who are and will be going onto a four-year college will be able to experience graduating in-person someday, once everything gets better.”

Rodnay Smith, 27-year-old early child development major who is to be this year’s student commencement speaker, said that the online process for applying for graduation and submitting forms has been an easy process that alleviated the dismay of online graduation.

With the help of updates shared by El Camino College’s Instagram page, students and staff could easily be up-to-date about new commencement information.

“I believe it’s [better] because we’re not the first graduating class to go through this,” Smith said. “The committee has been able to perfect it and prepare the online services and health [considerations] this time around.”

Though Smith was a bit disappointed about experiencing the event virtually after spending five years in pursuit of a behavioral science degree, she mentions noticing that the other graduating students also expressed empathy towards the current situation regarding the pandemic.

“Having it online still doesn’t take away any less excitement achieving something, it doesn’t take away from our accomplishments,” Smith said. “Through all the adversity and struggles of being a full-time student in a pandemic, we can still celebrate and participate and support each other even if online.”