When it became clear that the traditional UC Riverside commencement ceremonies had to be postponed due to COVID-19, some students, staff, and faculty members still managed to find ways to celebrate the 2020 graduates.
Dozens of departments and cultural offices went virtual, some with live Zoom ceremonies and others with prerecorded content.
Among them was the Department of Theatre, Film, and Digital Production. The department held it’s fifth-annual Culmination Celebration via Zoom. Instead of the traditional theater with a live audience, the department scheduled a one-hour virtual meeting to allow students to showcase their singing, acting, and directing skills.
Among them was Winter Lawson, who prefers the pronouns they, them, their. Lawson sang “Dentist!” from “Little Shop of Horrors” on Friday, June 12, from their Riverside living room, with the help of roommate Johnny Macias, ’19.
Lawson’s family logged in to watch from Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Sacramento. Lawson, 22, described the virtual experience as “interesting” but still loved performing on of their favorite songs with only having their roommate and two cats, Gadget and Gin, to cheer from the couch.
“’Dentist!’ is one of my personal favorites,” said Lawson, a theater major focusing on playwriting and screenwriting. “I really enjoy it; it’s really fun for me. It’s exaggerated, dramatic, funny.”
The Chicano Student Programs office also moved its annual cultural celebration, Raza Grad, to a prerecorded virtual ceremony.
Jacqueline Hernandez Rico, 33, was among the several hundred students who logged into their computers to watch the Raza Grad homage. She watched along with her parents and siblings in Perris on Saturday, June 13.
Hernandez Rico was dressed in her graduation regalia; despite the limitations brought by COVID-19, celebrating this milestone was more than just an opportunity to socialize with her family.
It was a way to acknowledge her husband, her three sons, and her parents. They all played crucial roles in making sure she completed her undergraduate degree, said Hernandez Rico, a sociology major.
“I feel relived and excited for the future,” said Hernandez Rico, who shared the day’s celebration with her younger sister, Kristy Rico, who graduated from Moreno Valley College.
Hernandez Rico’s sash had her boys’ names stitched in gold: Eric, Ivan, Adan. They gave her the drive to graduate cum laude and received the National Honors Society Award.
For her husband, Irvyn Hernandez, seeing his wife graduate left him with an “inexplicable feeling.”
“This was all her. I could have offered all the support, but if she didn’t have the drive, the dedication, and the intelligence, she wouldn’t have done it,” said Hernandez of the woman he’s been married to for 12 years. “She’s a go-getter, smart, capable, and I admire her greatly.”