May was set to be an epic celebration at the Williams’ household with a trio of graduates to celebrate. However, the coronavirus put a damper on those plans, and the family was forced to adjust.
Haylee Smith graduated from Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her bachelor’s in nursing, Sydney Williams got her bachelor’s in psychology and anthropology with a minor in Spanish from Central College in Pella and Carly Williams was a member of Springville High School’s Class of 2020.
While the future of graduation sat in limbo, just finishing up the school year was an interesting experience. Haylee, who was taking classes online, was supposed to be doing her clinical. With that, like many other studies having to go virtual, she was provided with a simulation of a fake community to write her paper.
“I was supposed to go out into the community and find resources for certain populations of patients. So, instead of going out into my own community, they created a fake community online that I had to go find resources for,” she said.
For Carly, though, high school classes were paused, but Kirkwood classes continued as planned online.
“Not having other students around or other teachers around, that was kind of stressful at some points, but it was also kind of nice to be able to go at your own pace,” Carly said.
Mother Melissa Williams said having self-sufficient students helped ease the nerves, by knowing they could be left to their own devices.
“It was just very uncertain. We didn’t know whether we needed to start planning a graduation. It was really hard just knowing where the kids were at and how they were doing on their classes with them being in classes,” she said. “But they’re really good at managing themselves. So, I just kind of stayed out of it and let them take care of their classes.”
When it came time for the ceremonies themselves, things went digital. The family got together over the weekend for the various graduation events and had dinner together, with ceremonies set to take place on the same weekend.
“It was super nice to be able to do it all together because it was kind of like our last time of everybody being all together,” Carly said.
For Haylee, videos were provided with a message from the president of the university and a couple of student speakers. Graduates could submit their own video to be sent out, but she said there weren’t a lot of takers on that.
Sunday, they participated in Springville’s ceremony with Carly having her sisters, mom, dad, grandparents and boyfriend all present for the ceremony. Families were given 10 minutes inside the gym for pictures, which went quickly. Graduates were ushered into the gym and given their medals and cords to wear around their neck before they had their names announced by Superintendent Pat Hocking and having their diplomas handed over by Springville Board of Education President Kate O’Brien-May.
Following that, Carly said it was nice to be able to see graduates, over half of whom participated, and the community members she hadn’t seen in month during the Senior Car Cruise.
Springville High School had been holding out hope for the possibility of being able to hold an in-person graduation June 28, but restrictions on gatherings did not loosen in time for that to be a possibility.
Though Williams said it was disappointing not to be able to have the in-person graduation the district was hoping to hold on June 28, being able to see the video put out by the district was a nice touch. The video featured remarks from Principal Nick Merritt, Salutatorian Lily Schaum and Valedictorian Kyle Koppes, as well as the awards received by seniors and videos of each of them collecting their diplomas.
“It was really neat that they came up with that idea and that it involved everyone,” Carly said.
Central College is planning on having a graduation in September, by which time Sydney will be off to graduate school. Not being able to have her graduation ceremony was a disappointment, Melissa said. Aside from the graduation ceremony, the pandemic had also canceled a conference at which Sydney was supposed to present her research.
“I know she was really bummed,” Melissa said.
Having received their degrees and diploma, Haylee said she’s taking a break from education and is currently working in an intensive care unit before transferring to the medical surgical department. Sydney is attending Ohio State University to pursue a doctorate in social psychology. Carly will be attending Kirkwood Community College full time, though said it might be a little odd getting used to in person classes again.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be weird from not having class and being able to just sit in my bedroom and wearing pajamas,” she said. “I guess I could still do that.”