Across U.S., students in lockdown celebrate graduations virtually with celebrity guests

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A graduate from California State University San Marcos celebrates while participating in a car parade through campus during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in San Marcos, California, U.S., May 15, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) – Graduation ceremonies are a rite of passage in the United States, a chance to don a scholarly cap and gown and celebrate with friends and family another stage of school completed.

But the graduates of 2020 are having to seek other ways to mark this milestone, with the majority of the population still under coronavirus-related lockdowns and school and college campuses closed.

“To not have the traditional graduation ceremony because of the coronavirus is a little heartbreaking,” said Ryan Daniels, a high school graduate in Fishers, Indiana.

“I’ve seen so many seniors graduate… and now that it’s my chance to do it – I’ve worked 13 years for it, and I don’t get to have my little moment – is a little heartbreaking.”

Some of the country’s biggest names heard the seniors’ lament, and got together to hold a number of virtual events. TV star Oprah Winfrey gave a commencement address on a Facebook event on Friday, and supportive words were shared by actor Matthew McConaughey and rapper Cardi B, among others.

On Saturday, TV networks will broadcast an event called ‘Graduate Together,’ with former President Barack Obama and basketball player LeBron James, while Obama will be joined by his wife Michelle and other names from the worlds of politics and entertainment for a YouTube event on June 6 called ‘Dear Class of 2020.’

Meanwhile, students are doing what they can to celebrate. Convoys of cars beeping their horns have become a common sight in U.S. towns, while others are holding ceremonies at home with their families.

“You are originals, enjoy that,” said McConaughey at the Facebook event. “There will always be only one graduating class of 2020 who did it the way you’re doing it now.”

Reporting by Alicia Powell, Writing by Rosalba O’Brien; editing by Diane Craft

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