'We worked so hard for this moment, to graduate': Valdosta State students gearing up for virtual graduation

Published: May. 7, 2020 at 6:12 PM EDT
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By: Amber Spradley | WCTV Eyewitness News

May 7, 2020

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) – Valdosta State University will still celebrate the graduating class of 2020 on a virtual stage with an online commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 9.

“We really couldn't bare not celebrating with our students,” Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Dr. Robert Smith said.

He says when they realized they would not be able to accommodate thousands on the lawn this year, they began to brainstorm alternatives like postponing graduation a couple months or moving it to fall.

"We did not want to delay,” Dr. Smith said. “Our students have worked really hard and for years."

Nivenitie McDaniel is one of those accomplished students. After commuting from Atlanta for hybrid classes her last semester, she’s now earning her master’s degree.

“We worked so hard for this moment, to graduate. But we still earn our degree, so that's what matters the most,” she said.

She will graduate along with more than 1500 others on a virtual stage. The prerecorded ceremony will air

In the video, graduating seniors Amea Thompson and Jacob Bell will deliver the undergraduate commencement speeches.

Thompson is graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication and a Minor in Advertising and Promotions. She is from Springfield, Georgia.

She says while facing all the unknowns this year, she’s learned to live by a new motto: “Adaptability is the best ability”.

"Now I get to not only celebrate with my immediate family, but my extended family and friends will be able to join in on commencement,” she said.

Jacob Bell will graduate, Student Government Association president, is graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Economics and an Honors College Certificate. He is from Baxley, Georgia.

"It's been a new occasion to rise to; a new challenge to face. And, you know, I think we've done that well,” he said. “Not to minimize, you know, the loss that's there in making that transition and ineffectively losing the end of your senior year in the way you expected it to be."

VSU has announced they will provide other opportunities to celebrate once large social gatherings are deemed safe again. That includes a special recognition during Homecoming in the fall and a chance to walk the stage with fall graduates in December.

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