Muskegon Community College has seen a whirlwind of hardship impact its students over the course of the pandemic, whether it be from transitioning to online learning, financial instability, or personal struggles; but, there was nothing but sunny skies and smiles on Wednesday, May 5, as the Class of 2021 participated in the college’s 93rd annual graduation ceremonies.
“It’s good to see everybody interact, to celebrate the students and their accomplishments, even if we’re doing it in a different way,” said Director of Enrollment Services Stephanie Briggs, who was happily stationed between the back of the stage where students walked out and got their portraits taken next to the American flag. She congratulated each student who passed by with a warm smile and directions for their upcoming portrait.
Dr. Dale Nesbary, President of MCC, was pleased with the event’s turnout, remarking the event felt “like a real commencement ceremony”. Rachel Gorman, Alumni and Donor Relations Manager at MCC, directed the drive-through graduation event alongside Aaron Richman, committee co-chair, and Registrar. After the graduation ceremony was finished, Gorman cheerfully remarked, “[Drive-Thru Graduation Event] exceeded expectations. We are so thrilled with how many graduates participated and how much they had fun with it. It was great to see their families. It was nice to have a live event again for the entire MCC community to celebrate our 2020-2021 graduates.”
Commencement was most certainly different from any before it. In compliance with COVID-19 guidelines, and with the safety of the students in mind, MCC hosted a drive-thru commencement to celebrate their accomplishments. Compared to the drive-thru student graduation headed by the MCC faculty association for the class of 2020, this event was more similar to a normal graduation ceremony, but it still had its obvious differences. Dr. Nesbary noted future outdoor events may be possible, including graduation.
Graduates were welcomed by a tunnel of MCC faculty congratulating them as they made their way towards the main stage. Graduates were then greeted by the MCC Administration and Board of Trustees to receive their diploma cover. Graduates walked towards the back of the stage with their accompanying vehicle following them. There, they met with a professional photographer who took photos with the American flag, finally making their way out of the parking lot guided by various MCC staff members.
“It is great to see that so many people are taking advantage of this opportunity because of how long we’ve been disconnected from each other,” said Evin Rodkey, a social science professor at MCC. “It’s great to see people here engage with each other the best they can be.”
Accompanying family members were required to drive in the same vehicle, but that didn’t stop students from graduating in style and personality, as evidenced by many students customizing their vehicles with graffiti on their windows. One student took it upon themselves to rent out a trolley specifically for the occasion to drive up to the aisle.
Briggs closed with these parting words on graduation, “Coronavirus has brought us to a place where we have to think outside the box. We don’t have to do things like we’ve always done them. Even for experiences like this where families can still celebrate a student, their daughter or son, or whoever it may be, and I do foresee us doing more events like this out of the norm.”