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Coronavirus Pandemic Disrupts Graduations For Thousands Of College, High School Seniors

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- Stanford student Jenna Garden is the first in her family to attend college, but because of COVID-19 she won't be celebrating years of hard work with her family, friends and teachers on graduation day in June.

Instead, Stanford has planned to recognize its graduating class of 2020 "at a distance," and has postponed its on-campus commencement to a later date. The last time Stanford postponed its commencement weekend was in 1906, because of an earthquake.

"I imagined putting on the cap and gown and seeing all of my friends," Garden said. "And just have everyone who I love, be in the same place for one day." Garden, an English major, worked through school to pay tuition and earned scholarships. She is the oldest of seven siblings.

"It's been such a dream to be able to demonstrate to them, my younger siblings too, that this is a feasible thing for them to do," she said.

Garden is among the thousands of college as well as high school students whose schools have postponed their graduation day or have not yet said what they plan to do even as they have transitioned to distance learning for the rest of the school year.

Kelly Harvell attends Monterey High School, which hasn't said whether graduation day has been cancelled, postponed or will continue as planned.

"At this point it's become almost expected and it's very upsetting to acknowledge that it likely won't happen," Harvell said. "It's definitely very disappointing."

Harvell, who is a senior, slowly watched as her school cancelled senior trips and then prom. She had already planned to attend, and bought her dress.

"I think that being in solidarity with my classmates and knowing that everyone else is going through it is very comforting," said Harvell.

But then she said she started to see her college campus visits also being cancelled. Harvell was accepted to a long list of elite and ivy league schools, including MIT, Yale and Harvard.

"So it's definitely made the decision of where to go a little challenging, but I'm still optimistic of the fact that we'll still be able to go to college the first semester," she said.

It's not how both Harvell and Garden imagined their school year would end. But Garden said the possibility of losing graduation day in June is nothing compared to what others are going through right now during the pandemic.

"Even though I feel the loss of this moment, I also know that in many ways, I'm still very fortunate," Garden said.

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