Meet Birmingham’s COVID-19 graduates—how they’re celebrating under self-quarantine

With graduation postponed or canceled altogether, Birmingham graduates are finding creative ways to celebrate. Photo via Bryce Varner.

Trading your cap and gown for a mask and hand sanitizer probably isn’t how graduating seniors thought their year would end. COVID-19 threw the mother of all wrenches into celebratory plans from weddings and birthdays to the milestone that is graduating from college or high school. Take a look at how Birmingham seniors are moving forward during the situation.

From full steam ahead to full stop

“So I found out today my son is a graduate!” Sheila McCallum said during one of our daily work conference calls. About a month before he would’ve officially graduated, Gregory McCallum was declared done with high school—extending his summer before college far past what he expected.

The same is true for many Birmingham seniors, both in college and high school, who came to realize they wouldn’t be walking across that stage—at least not in the traditional way.

Graduating in the new normal

As with everything right now, we have no idea what the next several months hold—making graduation uncertain. Lexie Dillard, a Birmingham Southern College senior, is holding out hope for an in-person ceremony. With everything up in the air except their graduation caps, seniors are left to speculate or make their own plans.

“There have been memes for a while, both at Oak Mountain and throughout social media, that joke about online graduations in Zoom or in Minecraft.

I actually have a friend who goes to Altamont who is building a 1:1 replica of his school in Minecraft. I would not be surprised if they end up using it for joke graduation.”

Gregory McCallum, Oak Mountain High

Gregory is right, people across the world are getting creative with their graduation celebrations. You may have seen quarantined-themed graduation shoots go viral like this Georgia high school senior:

What about the graduation traditions?

While a graduation ceremony is definitely what makes a senior year, senior year, it’s not the only tradition seniors keep in their calendar.

“Birmingham-Southern does a great job at making their seniors feel involved during their last semester. We having capping ceremonies, ringing of the bell, a senior dinner on the academic quad, etc.

I got to attend some of these ceremonies last year with my senior friends and was really looking forward to making more memories this year as a senior. I am hoping that BSC will let us come back during the summer to make-up some of these events.

Lexie Dillard, Birmingham Southern College

Bryce Varner, a senior at Hoover High School, has hope too that she’ll be able to complete traditions promised to her since she was just beginning school.

“I’m also missing out of the senior walk where we get to walk through the halls our old elementary school and middle school in our cap and gowns. I was really looking forward to that, and I hope we can still do it if the quarantine is over by summer.”

Bryce Varner, Hoover High School

Finding ways to celebrate

My biggest worry when graduating was tripping over heels that were waaayy too tall, so to say I don’t understand what seniors are going through is an understatement. However, just like our city, these and many other Birmingham seniors are resilient and there’s no doubt they’ll pull through.

Weighing the options

The further we move along in the COVID-19 situation the more ways we’ve found to makeshift interrupted plans. The one bright spot in all of this is living in a community like Birmingham, who rallies around one and another.

“The local news has been shouting out senior athletes from different schools and wishing them happy graduation, which was cool to see since I’m also a senior athlete. “

Bryce Varner, Hoover High School

Gregory doesn’t have particular plans for graduation, and Bryce is still considering a way to mark this moment in time. Although, graduating during the historic times we’re living in will be pretty hard to forget.

“I might also find a way to do a senior photoshoot in my cap and gown. The most creative celebration I’ve heard of so far is where the seniors all got in their cars and drove around like a parade, and the principal got to hand them their diploma from their car.”

Bryce Varner, Hoover High School

Monitoring the situation

Yes, those three words we’ve heard so much the past month they might as well be the officially motto for 2020. While grads spend time with family, chat with friends over zoom or dream ahead to future football games in the fall, for the most part they’re waiting out the graduation celebrations.

“As of right now, my graduation has not been officially cancelled, just postponed. So, I am still hoping that I will at least get to attend my graduation ceremony. I will probably celebrate by getting some graduation photos taken, once we are allowed to get out of the house.

Before COVID-19, I was planning on having a graduation party with my friends and family. I am not sure if that will happen because I do not want to put any of my family members at risk. My family is taking it week by week before deciding to start planning anything.”

Lexie Dillard, Birmingham Southern College

Ceremony or no ceremony, we want to extend a huge congratulations to the graduating class of 2020. We know these times are uncertain and unprecedented, but you shouldn’t forget your amazing accomplishment or disregard all the hard work it took to get here.

Are you a COVID-19 grad? Share your pictures or how you’re celebrating with us on social @bhamnow!