Averett University holds reimagined graduation during pandemic

An Averett University graduate walks across the stage during an intimate graduation ceremony on...
An Averett University graduate walks across the stage during an intimate graduation ceremony on Saturday.(WDBJ)
Published: Dec. 13, 2020 at 4:03 PM EST
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DANVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) - New COVID restrictions meant Averett University had to rethink its graduation plans once again. Despite the changes limiting gatherings to just 10 people, students are still able to celebrate this weekend. The university quickly switched from an outdoor graduation to a more intimate one.

Although the Averett University Fall Graduation looked very different than past years, graduates said they still got to walk across the stage and get their diplomas in front of their loved ones, and that’s all that really matters.

“It was amazing, it’s been a long time, as you can see, I’m a middle-aged Black woman, so for me to do this, it was amazing,” Lolita Martin, a fall graduate of Averett University, said.

Martin said she faced many obstacles growing up, so it’s a huge feat for her for her to have walked across the stage.

“I feel like I can conquer the world right now,” she said.

Due to the pandemic, her graduation experience wasn’t typical. Friday night, Averett livestreamed a commencement ceremony. Saturday, Martin and her fellow fall graduates received their diplomas one at a time, in front of up to four guests each.

“Even though it wasn’t traditional, it was a 2020 graduation and it was worth it,” Martin said.

“I still got to experience it with some of my loved ones, so it was definitely a great experience; I’m very blessed and grateful to have this opportunity,” Dante George, Fall Graduate of Averett University, said.

University leaders had planned for a ceremony on the football field, but when the governor announced new restrictions, they pivoted to this more private set-up.

“These graduates, these seniors have endured such a crazy year, as we’ve all had, and they really worked hard for this milestone, and we wanted to make sure that we could do everything we could to help them celebrate,” Cassie Jones, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications for Averett University, said.

This graduation honored 2020 spring, August and fall graduates.

“It was an awesome opportunity to get to still walk across. I didn’t think we were even going to get to have this opportunity, but it was definitely a blessing to get to have it,” George said.

Graduates said this day is one they will always remember.

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