News-Miner Opinion

Graduations, 2020 style: This year’s high school and UAF students survived a tumultuous few months

News-Miner opinion: It wasn’t supposed to be this way, of course. High school seniors throughout the Fairbanks area should have been tossing their graduation caps in the air with their classmates as they head off to the next chapter in their lives. The same is true for students graduating from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. 

Instead, high schoolers tossed their caps individually thanks to the virus outbreak. UAF grads will have to do the same later this month.

This past week was to have been the week of festive graduation ceremonies for West Valley, Hutchison, North Pole, Lathrop and Eielson high school seniors and students in the district’s BEST program. Star of the North Secondary and Effie Kokrine Early College Charter School students were to have had their in-person graduation on May 8.

Up on the hill, UAF’s commencement ceremony was to have been May 2.

Instead, school and university officials adapted in creative ways. 

At the Fairbanks school district, prerecorded ceremonies were the next-best thing for graduation week. These recordings, made available on YouTube and Facebook as well as being aired on local television, included such elements as comments from principals, teachers, student leaders, a reading of graduates names, and photos of students.

Some schools also posted notecards of each student on their school’s Facebook page, offering a way for people to publicly congratulate graduates.

UAF will be holding its commencement online at 1 p.m. May 23 instead of at the Carlson Center as it would in a normal year.

This year’s ceremony, like the high school graduations, will be out of the ordinary. It will consist of a video that includes comments by students, faculty and university leaders and photo notecards of the more than 300 students who have submitted them out of the more than 1,300 graduates. The ceremony will be livestreamed on Facebook at

The university and high school classes of 2020 certainly have graduations to remember in ways that others haven’t.

The same can be said for the professors and teachers who had to overcome tremendous turmoil in bringing their students to this final point since the outbreak upended the education system — and life in general — in March.

Teachers and professors, and parents, too, deserve praise for quickly adapting to online education.

The level of education online was almost certainly not of the same caliber as it had been with students in the classroom in a traditional setting and the day filled with a variety of courses at set periods. But educators did what they could on short notice and likely will improve upon that should online learning continue to be necessary in the fall.

As for the future, there’s discussion percolating throughout the land that things just aren’t going to be as they were for a long time — if at all. If so, then the delivery of education in our K-12 system and university systems is surely going to change also.

For now, though, let’s celebrate the class of 2020 and the unique place it holds among graduating classes.

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The Daily News-Miner encourages residents to make themselves heard through the Opinion pages. Readers' letters and columns also appear online at Contact the editor with questions at or call 459-7574.

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