OCC Students Celebrate Graduation In Drive-Thru Commencement
Hundreds of Onondaga Community College students finally received their diplomas Sunday in a commencement ceremony. But they did so in an unorthodox fashion due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
You may not expect a commencement ceremony to be filled with the sound of car horns, but
Onondaga Community College took a unique approach to their commencement ceremony.
Instead of graduates walking to the stage on two legs, students arrived on four wheels, one by one, in a drive thru setting. OCC President Casey Crabill had to cancel the school’s original ceremony in May, but remained undeterred in giving her students their moment.
“We made a conscious decision that, our students, when they finished, would have something spectacular to recognize the fact that they are done,” said Crabill.
Across campus, teachers and staff members lined the roads to serenade graduates as they passed by in their cars. ASL professor Jenny Sabo brought a sign that read “Keep building on the moment.”.
She has a special way to describe OCC students and how they overcame many difficult moments this year.
“They’re troopers,” said Sabo.
One such trooper is 44 year old Computer Information Systems major Gilbert Karugu.
“A long time coming. Lots of sleepless nights, and working late at night,” said Karugu.
Karugu, a printing pressman by trade, was not alone. He had his three daughters with him in the car and his wife Rebecca.
“He worked full time, went to school full time, and took care of his family the whole time,” said Rebecca Karugu. “It’s a very big moment.”
OCC Communications Director Roger Mirabito said these circumstances are not uncommon for OCC students
“Eighty percent of our students work thirty hours a week or more, which is what really makes this graduating class so special,” said Mirabito.
Many of those jobs disappeared in the pandemic. The futures of many of the graduates remain uncertain in troubled times. President Casey Crabill said for at least one day, they can be celebrated for what they achieved.
“Many of them have lost jobs, and we just wanted this to be a recognition of the huge lift that it took for them to get here,” said Crabill.
And that is something worth honking the horn for.