League of California Cities
Home > News > News Articles > 2020 > May > No Ceremony? Cities Find Ways to Celebrate the Graduating Classes of 2020
News Feed

No Ceremony? Cities Find Ways to Celebrate the Graduating Classes of 2020

May 20, 2020
As we conclude our second month under the state’s stay-at-home order, cities understand the strain students feel since transitioning to online learning. 
Many aspects of education have changed for students since they are no longer able to attend school in person, including the cancellation of traditional graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020. Many students also no longer have access to amenities previously provided through schools. Cities are attempting to address some of the challenges associated with school closures and have found creative ways to do so.

The City of Lancaster created a campaign called “Turn your Tassel,” in which the city provides an array of tactics to celebrate the graduating class of 2020 through social media campaigns, banners, certificates, and videos. Graduates are submitting photos to the city to be featured on the city’s social media channels, as well as other platforms including Lancaster’s television station (LTV). In addition, the city is encouraging residents to decorate their yards to celebrate graduates with free take-home celebration kits provided by the city. The at-home celebration kits include a lawn sign and other graduation regalia.

To make the city’s high school graduates feel extra special during these difficult times, the Lancaster City Council is providing all Lancaster graduates who sign up a special certificate of recognition signed by the mayor. In addition, the city is gathering recordings of valedictorians’ speeches to be aired on LTV and shared on social media platforms, since none of the valedictorians chosen this year will be able to deliver their speech in person.

“We may not be able to have traditional graduations, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate!” said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris. “Although this will not replace a graduation ceremony and all of the other fun events a high school senior typically enjoys, hopefully it will help commemorate this special time in the graduates’ lives.”

Since the education system moved online, additional challenges are presented for low-income families that rely on services from schools. The City of Sacramento is working to reduce the strain of online learning to those without internet access by teaming up with the Sacramento Regional Transit District and California State Transportation Agency to turn buses into free wireless hotspots in communities with limited high-speed internet access.

These Wi-Fi buses are being used to promote an equal opportunity for distance learning, telework, and telehealth. The first Wi-Fi buses went live May 4 in six different locations across the Sacramento area and seven additional buses were deployed May 11. The buses will provide 3.5 hours of wireless broadband services each day in various locations with an updated schedule available at thewifibus.com.

The City of Coachella also took the initiative to provide internet access to students struggling to stay connected to online learning. The City of Coachella and the Coachella Valley Unified School District purchased 3,000 personal wireless hotspots to place in homes of students to ensure all students have internet access while schools continue to be closed. While the school district provides students with computers and tablets for school use, many students have struggled to stay connected because of their lack of internet connection. The wireless hotspots provide the necessary technology for the students to succeed. 

An additional struggle many students are facing during school closures is a lack of access to food that was once provided by schools. The city of Coachella is continuing their school lunch programs and are also working to make them as healthy as possible.

Coachella has developed the program “Farms to School” in which local farms and farm workers are helping to provide healthy meals to students who received meals from the school districts, including locally grown dates. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, thousands of dates have been wasted because of the low demand, but now the date farms are able to sell their produce to the schools while also providing nutritious lunches to students in need.

As cities work to provide resources and information to their residents, the League continues to update the coronavirus resource and response webpage as a resource for city leaders. Daily updates on COVID-19 news, resources, and guidance specifically geared toward local officials will help local governments navigate the current situation and is updated as new developments occur.  

Cities that would like to share the actions they have taken in response to coronavirus can contact the communications team at communications@cacities.org. If you have questions related to COVID-19, please send them to covid-19@cacities.org.

© League of California Cities