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Virtual Ceremony Is Bittersweet For UMass Amherst Graduates

BOSTON (CBS) - A bit of pomp and circumstance and a whole lot of social distance. The UMass Amherst Class of 2020 attended a virtual graduation celebration Friday.

"First of all let me say what everybody is thinking. This is weird, like, super weird," said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.

The 20-minute video featured words of encouragement from Hollywood stars.

"Help people, stand up for what's right, when you're wrong own it an apologize, forgive others, forgive yourself, be grateful, have empathy," said actor Ben Affleck.

"My advice would be reach for the stars. You will go far!" Rachel Dratch added, in her best Boston accent.

Patriots stars offered messages, too.

"If we all stick together we're going to come out of this this whole thing stronger. Congratulations," said Julian Edelman.

Still, it was bittersweet for seniors, especially those who overcame a lot to get here. Brookline native Julia Perlin was one of them, watching from home.

"I was born deaf, I have a cochlear implant. (Sophomore) year I got a major infection in my head and had to get the implant removed.

I had no hearing. I was going to class with no hearing. It was a really tough time but I'm thankful that I still graduated in four years and made it though," Perlin said.

She already had a job lined up after graduation.

"To be trained as a vet tech and work in a 24 hour animal hospital and surgical center. Right now it's on hold. I have no idea what's going to happen, when it's going to happen. That's really tough financially with benefits and stuff," Perlin said.

She's selling cleaning products to pay her bills in the meantime, and keeping focused on positivity and her passions.

"Animals are never a disappointment. They're always innocent. I'm so excited to give back and help them," she added.

Alumnus John Jacobs also addressed the graduates during the virtual celebration – a selection perhaps based less on his success, and more on his brand message 'Life is Good.' That's a lesson Perlin already knows well. She and her boyfriend both lost relatives to Covid-19.

"I'm thankful to be healthy and safe and alive. Everything else just kind of seems not important right now," Perlin said.

WATCH: UMass Amherst Virtual Celebration

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