FGCU seniors grapple with cancellation of graduation
College students across our country are grappling with goodbyes. Many universities asked students to go home and complete their classes remotely. At FGCU, many seniors went home without getting their senior experience and knowing they won’t get to graduate in person with their friends.
We were on FGCU’s campus Monday and learned about some of the individual stories of students at the university amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s not just about the graduation ceremony. It’s about saying goodbye to all of their classmates and teachers, some of whom they’ve had for all four years.
They know they’re going to graduate, but it’s that moment of validation when they get their diploma when they know their hard work paid off.
FGCU student Eric Swartz’s was lucky enough to perform his senior trumpet recital in the fall.
“We were able to have over 100 people in the recital hall listening to him play some pieces on the trumpet,” said Jill Swartz, Eric’s mother. “It never occurred to us that that might not happen for other students.”
It’s time for Eric to pack up his dorm room and head back home to Miami months before his graduation date.
“I was kind of bummed that I wouldn’t be able to walk or say all my goodbyes to my friends or professors,” Eric said.
“This was going to be my first one, my first son graduating,” Jill said. “And we’re just super proud of him and his accomplishments, and we really wanted to make a big deal about it for him.”
They know it’s necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19, but it’s still hard to accept.
“It’s not so much the ceremony,” senior Dusty Catala said. “It’s the moment when you walk across the stage, and you kind of have that moment of like validation like, ‘I did it.'”
Catala says it’s something she’d been dreaming about.
“I have to say my heart did sink a little bit because I was making plans with family for them to travel down,” Catala said.
But both Catala and Eric are looking at the bright side.
“I’m sure at the very least it will be my immediate family,” Catala said. “We’ll have like … probably a nice dinner.”
Since graduation is canceled, the university says it’s considering alternative ways to celebrate. But the students say they have no idea what that could be.
“At least I get to spend some time at home,” Eric said.