(PHOTO COLLAGE BY GILLIAN RUSSO)

PHOTO COLLAGE BY GILLIAN RUSSO

Checking in With the Class of 2020

November 20, 2020

Between spending the last three months of their senior year in Zoom classes in childhood bedrooms, having celebratory senior events canceled, entering the worst job market in over a decade, saying abrupt goodbyes and being denied an overall lack of closure, the class of 2020 had an unfortunate ending to their college years.

Six months later, five Fordham alums reflected on their graduation, what it meant to them, how they celebrated and what lies ahead in this very uncertain time.

 

 

Sarah Grace Houston

Digital Forensics Analyst

 

What are you up to now?

Currently, I am working as a digital forensics analyst at a cybersecurity consulting company technically based in San Francisco and Amsterdam. But there’s a New York office; I interned there my senior year, and thankfully I was offered a job during graduation. 

What did graduating college mean to you and your family?

It meant a lot to me and my family. It was expected that I was going to graduate college, but for me, it was a really big deal to move on to Texas, to be living in New York City all by myself. I didn’t go home. I didn’t drop out. I didn’t quit. There’s a lot of hardships along the way that all college students have, so it was a big deal to me to reach that graduation mark.

How did you celebrate?

My high school friends, we each went to each other’s house on our respective graduation days and  chilled in a parking lot or their driveways and honked horns and celebrated that way. And then my family came over for a very safe, very sanitized dinner and celebration, and we rewatched the commencement ceremony and put my slide up on a TV.

 

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SARAH GRACE HOUSTON

 

 

 

Fiona Danyko

Teach for America Middle School Math Teacher

 

What are you up to now?

I am from New York, but I moved to Indianapolis after graduation to join the 2020 Teach for America corps.

There’s so much luck in the fact that I’m still doing what I planned on doing. I have so many friends at Fordham who had incredible things planned like Peace Corps, Fulbrights — unbelievable, exciting things, and they all got canceled because of the pandemic. I really didn’t do anything any more right than any of those people.

So it’s really just been a lucky thing. I’m really, really fortunate that, despite everything that’s going on, teachers are still desperately needed everywhere.

Did you watch the commencement ceremony livestream?

Me and my family sat and watched it together. It was really weird watching it. I cried.

It was mostly just me and my direct family, watching it together, spending the day celebrating together. My parents bought a sign to put out front and we got a cake and all that and celebrated, but it was really, really weird. I felt really sad all day — excited and happy and celebratory, but also really sad. 

 

How do you feel about the university’s commitment to holding an in-person commencement whenever it’s safe? 

I would love to come back to go whenever they have it. At this point it’s strange because it doesn’t even really feel like I’m still waiting for that day to happen, because it really feels like it’s in the past.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF FIONA DANYKO

 

 

Charles E. Scheland

What does graduation mean to you and your family?

I’m really fortunate; I come from a household where I knew I would be able to go to college. It was an important affirmation for myself and my parents that I was setting out on the correct path as a professional dancer.

How do you feel about graduating during this time? 

It is really frustrating. Not to brag, and I’m sure that others feel the same, but I had done everything correctly. I had a full time artistic dance job lined up before graduating, which is a rare thing in the best of times. It was all I ever wanted and the most perfect launching pad. All gone, with no return to work date in sight. I’m excited to be out of college, but it is kind of crushing to have graduated and to not be able to work in my chosen field.

How did you celebrate? 

I had ordered a very fun jumpsuit for underneath the robe, which would be nice and breathable. So I wore that around the house, with my robe and pins and cords. I had a cocktail in hand at 10am watching the livecast and friends drove by to wave and celebrate. I can’t complain. It seemed like a pretty great distanced grad for me.

How do you feel about the university’s commitment to holding an in-person commencement whenever it’s safe? 

I think it’s a nice idea though I don’t know when that will be. I personally don’t believe that you will be able to have a multiple thousand people gathering, masked or unmasked in 2021. Maybe I’m being cynical, and maybe an “each student gets a limited number of guests” situation is more possible, but I am not holding my breath. Of course I would like an in person graduation, but every day we get further away from May 16, 2020 I feel less connected and it becomes less necessary.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHARLES SCHELAND

 

 

Finley Peay

Graduate Student in Higher Education and Student Affairs

PHOTOS COURTESY OF FINLEY PEAY

What had you always imagined college graduation would be?

My high school graduation was really, really large. I felt very connected to the school because one of my really good friend’s dad was the principal, and so I have memories from my high school graduation where one of my best friend’s dads gave me my diploma. And then the principal hugged us on the field, he hugged all of his kids’ friends as we walked off. And so I was kind of looking forward to at least some of the same feelings of being able to celebrate with professors and administrators that I had gotten close to over the last four years. I have friends from both Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses, and so I think not having that closure has been particularly challenging to move on and really feel incorporated into a new work environment and school environment. To me, graduation is just that final note of closure and celebration, and I think it’s particularly hard for me to let go to because I was the chair of senior week for Lincoln Center. So we’re planning all these events, and then I was the one who had to be in charge of canceling and explaining that we don’t know what’s happening. We still don’t know what’s happening. 

Did you watch the video commencement?

I watched the Baccalaureate Mass on the Friday night before. And my mother and I are watching it together, and it made us so sad that we did not watch the commencement ceremony. And to this day, I have not watched it. And instead, my family got together and did a socially distant event and my family made me wear my graduation gown and everything.

How did you celebrate?

We actually did it on the day of graduation. I got up and my mom surprised me with my grandparents and a bunch of my aunts, uncles and cousins, and we sat on the steps of the Capitol in Salt Lake City. My parents talked about why I chose Fordham and the things that I had done and how they were impressed that I had gone away to school and done all those things, and it made me cry.

 

 

Bertille Merveilleux du Vignaux

How did you feel about graduating during this time?

Honestly, graduating during the pandemic was not fun at all.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF BERTILLE MERVEILLEUX DU VIGNAUX

However, there was one great advantage in all of this craziness. Since my family lives in France, they could not have all come to the United States to attend graduation. Since graduation came to us, I was lucky to be surrounded by my whole family and my grandparents. Graduation turned out to be a very special family memory that came to brighten up the mood during the pandemic. 

Did you watch the video commencement?

Yes I did! Despite the 6 hour time difference, I also watched the livestream of the mass with a couple of friends. And for the actual Commencement day, my family had planned a mini surprise watch party. They decorated the living room with pictures of my four years of college, they made a graduation cake, and even printed out a diploma! My sister had also organized a zoom with all my friends so that they could watch the ceremony with us. Watching the videocast was a very special moment because of the love and support I felt by being surrounded by all these wonderful people that have helped me become the graduate I am today. 

How do you feel about the university’s commitment to holding an in-person commencement whenever it’s safe? 

Personally, I would love to get the opportunity to see my friends and professors again and celebrate with them. Since this make-up ceremony won’t be happening in 2020, I can’t really know in which mindset I will be, but it the opportunity presents itself, I would definitely come back to New York to see the city again and celebrate not only what we accomplished during our time at Fordham, but also what we have started to accomplish as graduates.

 

 

A general observation that I’ve seen is that (the) Class of 2020 has been very resilient. People are still making things happen. Everyone’s doing the best they can in spite of the circumstances. There’s no way to go out but through.

— Sarah Grace Houston

 

Edit: A previous version of this article included information from an additional student that has been removed.

 



About the Writer
Photo of EMMA SEIWELL
EMMA SEIWELL, Assistant Multimedia Editor

Emma Seiwell is the assistant multimedia editor for The Observer. She is a senior at Fordham Lincoln Center majoring in journalism with a minor in visual arts. Emma is interested in local history, culture, science and social justice. Being in NYC she finds great inspiration from local communities and the endless stories they have to tell. When she's not reporting, she can be found people-watching downtown, taking photos or eating blintzes at Veselka.

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