Celebrating the Class of 2021 with CARmencement

Mohamed Hassan/Pixabay

With the semester coming to an end, Saddleback is putting on an event to celebrate their 52nd commencement ceremony and the students who have persevered through the obstacles put in front of them. The class of 2021 will be able to celebrate their hard work with a socially distant commencement ceremony. 

The event will be taking place on Thursday, May 27, as a drive-through commencement ceremony accompanied by a slideshow to celebrate each student individually. Starting at 9 a.m., the event encourages students to decorate their family cars and wave to the faculty and staff that have helped them throughout their journey at Saddleback. 

Chris Hargraves, the Director of student life, mentions that the team was unsure about large gatherings during the beginning of the year. Alternate plans were made and changed according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines and the state’s rules on large gatherings. 

“It came to the realization that we needed to do something for our students,” Hargraves said. “We wanted to do something in person this year to give students the ability to see faculty and staff again.” 

Hargraves and the Associated Student Government came up with the concept of a CARmencement. Students will come to campus and be directed to a parking lot where they will listen to guest speakers and receive graduation celebration bags. Driving through a path around campus, faculty and staff will also cheer them on along the way. 

“We really wanted to celebrate the graduates and their achievements,” Hargraves said. “We want to give them that in-person feel of walking across the stage even though we won’t be able to get out of our cars.”

Preston Hong, the Director of the honors student council, looks forward to seeing the teachers and counselors who helped him during his time at Saddleback. Though he won’t necessarily be able to talk to them directly, he still looks forward to seeing them one last time at the ceremony.

“I appreciate all the effort that Saddleback has put into conducting this ceremony,” Hong said. 

Thomas Allard, the ASG Vice President, expressed his excitement for the event, saying that it is a unique opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2021. The ceremony will allow students to have a chance to commemorate their time on campus in a socially distanced way. 

Allard also mentions that Saddleback will be hosting a virtual celebration for graduates who are unable to attend. The event will include congratulatory videos submitted by friends, family, faculty and staff for those participating. 

“As a participant in the CARmencement ceremony, it is both exciting to be receiving commendations for transferring,” Allard said, “as well as having the chance to be doing it in person with my peers and mentors.”

Allard believes that this will be one of the most unique commencement ceremonies that Saddleback will host and an event that will not be forgotten. He also mentioned how humbled he is by the staff and faculty who sacrificed their time to make this a memorable occasion for students.

Alisa Horikawa, the Director of Human Resources and Volunteering, is transferring and feels grateful that there is an event happening for this year’s graduates. Though graduates won’t be able to get on stage and see their family and friends in the crowd, this year’s commencement is something special that will include new aspects of a socially distanced celebration. 

“With everything going on, it’s definitely still nice that they’re considering hosting a commencement,” Horikawa said. “I know last year they had a completely virtual one.” 

Last year, the graduating Class of 2020 at Trabuco Hills High School was blindsided by the pandemic. With students having events like prom and grad-nite canceled, the fate of their high school graduation was unsure. 

In June, THHS hosted its own drive-through graduation ceremony. Cars full of graduates and family were staged in a nearby Saddleback Church parking lot. Staff escorted cars in groups down the street towards the school’s campus. 

Katie Powrzanas was a senior who participated in this event. Though she was missing out on a normal graduation ceremony, she says that it turned out really well given the circumstances.

“Everyone showed up in their cars all decorated and all of the teachers were there cheering us on,” Powrzanas said. “Overall, it was still fun!”

Alison Hoffman also participated in the event, saying that she thought it was special and way more entertaining than a normal ceremony. Accompanied by her family, they were all able to celebrate with each other when they drove by the graduation area. 

“I personally thought a drive through graduation was extremely memorable and super fun,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman shares that it was a cool experience for her family to be with her when she received her diploma rather than sitting next to someone in alphabetical order at an actual graduation. 

Brett Shipley, another student from THHS, shares that the event was very special and something that he would never forget. Shipley was grateful he was able to spend graduation with his parents and celebrate afterward with family.

“I really liked what they did with limited options they had,” Shipley said. “Even though it was different, I still thought it was pretty cool.” 

Saddleback College’s official 2021 CARmencement event and virtual ceremony will be taking place at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 27. More details and further information can be found at the official CARmencement website.