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Illinois universities plan graduations in person, and 2020 graduates are also invited

Annie Czerwinski is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to walk across the stage in a cap and gown at a graduation ceremony at the University of Illinois next month, something he has been anticipating for years.

Czerwinski, however, has been waiting longer than most of the students who participated in these kinds of events this spring – in fact, he got his degree in molecular and cell biology last May. But because the pandemic canceled last year's in-person start, the state's flagship school allows any 2020 graduate to come to campus in Urbana-Champaign and be recognized alongside the 2021 graduates.

"It was honestly very sad," Czerwinski said of missing a formal show in person last year. "I had been looking forward to graduation for so long."

But the new plans mean that Czerwinski, who plans to go to optometry school in August, will be able to travel to Urbana-Champaign from her home in suburban Homer Glen “with my parents and sisters and my boyfriend and they will watch me walk through it. stage. Even if it's only for 15 minutes, I'm really excited. "

Schools open soccer stadiums

In addition to UIUC, some of the other large public universities in the state, including Illinois State, University of Illinois in Chicago, Northern, Southern, and Eastern, have invited the class of 2020 to return to their campuses to graduate this year. Although most schools offer a reduced program from previous years, the step is a small step toward normalcy as the pandemic extends into its second year.

At the EIU, which will hold graduation at the soccer stadium on May 8, officials are limiting attendance to 20% of capacity . Participating students will receive four to six guest tickets, depending on the EIU university they attend. All participants and guests are required to wear masks and seating will be socially distanced. Est They are rejecting traditions like shaking hands with the dean to minimize contact as well.

"It's a great achievement, and they've worked hard for this day," said Amber May, associate director of alumni services at EIU. "The simple fact that we can give it to them, I think everyone is grateful and excited for it." Southern Illinois University will livestream their graduation in person on the school's YouTube channel. SIU spokesperson Kim Rendfeld said the school decided to hold events in person after receiving overwhelming comments from students in favor.

Officials plan to host several graduation ceremonies to reduce risks for participants from May 7-9. Each graduate will have access to up to four guest tickets. Social distancing and masks will also be required for all students and guests.

"Based on the information we have now, we believe we can provide a safe in-person ceremony," Rendfeld said. "We are organizing more ceremonies to allow for adequate social distancing and to keep attendance at a safe level."

Annie Czerwinski, photographed with her family when she graduated (virtually) from the University of Illinois last year, plans to return to campus for an event in person this spring.

Petition of U. de I. students

At UIUC, the decision to allow last year's graduates to walk this year stemmed from a petition, signed by nearly 10,000 members of the class of 2020, imploring the school to reschedule their graduation until in-person events could be held from safe way.

“We deserve a start for the class of 2020,” says the petition written last year. “Virtual celebrations or a total cancellation are an insult to a class that has worked hard [so] to get here in the face of such adversity. Wait until the pandemic slows down and things get better, then get started. Regalia, ceremony and everything. We deserve it, whenever it is. ”

The school's main event for its 5,600 2021 graduates will remain virtual on May 15. But 2020 and 2021 graduates can bring up to four guests to a private 15-minute "crossover experience" at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, scheduled by appointment May 10-17. Graduates will wear caps, gowns and tassels and have their names read aloud to them as they walk across the stage. Professional photographers will be on site to take portraits.

The school says 850 2020 graduates have enrolled.

One of them, Paulina Maczuga, who majored in information and management systems, is now a graduate student at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Although it will not be the same as the large-scale beginnings that took place before the pandemic, she is eager to return to campus from her home in Crystal Lake to participate in at least some of the traditions.

"It's important to be grateful and happy that there is any opportunity there," Maczuga said. "To be honest, there are some parts that would make it really special that we won't be able to get."

For students like 23-year-old Taskeen Khan, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in integrated biology last year, an in-person event didn't seem like much of a thing until she left and realized what she had missed.

“A year later, I realized that I don't have any of those graduation photos in front of any of the campus buildings or photos of my cap and gown on campus, and I realized that I wanted that,” Khan said. . saying. "So that's what made me sign up for the new graduation, although that's not something I had originally been disappointed in that I had missed."

Khan said she is excited to bring her family to watch her cross the stage.

"I feel like it's a milestone that it's nice to have something to mark it," Khan said. "It's good to have just one theme-oriented day and have photos with your family from that special occasion."

Decorations for Annie Czerwinski's graduation celebration last year at her home in Homer Glen.

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