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BELLVILLE — Maija Johnson, a Clear Fork High School graduate and soon-to-be graduate from Ohio University, will celebrate her last semester any way she can, even if it’s not in the way she always imagined it would be.
Along with other universities across the U.S., Ohio University has postponed graduation until further notice due to the spread of COVID-19.
“I'm pretty bummed about graduation being postponed. I was looking forward to sharing that time with my friends from school and family,” Johnson said. “It ultimately is the right decision, so I understand, but it is something that we can never really get back.”
Johnson, a nursing major, was scheduled to graduate May 2. She said nursing students will be able to graduate on April 18 as long as they are in good academic standing, however they will not receive their degree in person.
“For nursing, they have a special ceremony for entering into the workforce called ‘pinning,’ and unfortunately we will not be able to have that either,” Johnson said. “It was kind of a last send off for the students and faculty that we have gotten so close to these past few years.”
As the number of reported coronavirus cases quickly grows, many universities and colleges across the nation have now canceled or postponed graduation ceremonies. Some graduates have even signed petitions to have their ceremony rescheduled rather than cancelled.
“Graduation signifies a new chapter in life," Johnson said. "It is just proof of all of the hard work that we have put into finishing college.”
Johnson's parents were initially disappointed that graduation would be suspended because they wanted her to be recognized for all of her hard work. Innovating, they decorated their front door to show how proud they are of her.
"My family decorated the door for me, which was very special," Johnson said.
Her father, Brian Johnson, said the family decorated the door and played "Graduation March," to give her the recognition she deserves.
“We are so proud of her. Nursing is an extremely hard curriculum,” Brian Johnson said. “Maija has a caring heart for the less fortunate and hurting.”
Kelsey Carver, another college senior from Bellville, will graduate from Marietta College on May 3. However, she won’t be walking across the stage either.
“We will be having a virtual graduation ceremony,” Carver said. “Caps and gowns are being shipped to our home addresses and we will be sending in pictures of ourselves in our caps and gowns that will pose as us virtually for when it would be each person’s turn to be recognized and receive their degree.”
The ceremony will be hosted by President William Ruud, faculty and staff on May 3 at 1 p.m.
“My fellow seniors will be all over the world, graduating in their own homes. Something about that sounds kind of cool but it’s definitely not the same,” Carver said. “Graduation is supposed to be shared with all, it’s a celebration of success.”
Carver will graduate with a major in communications and a triple minor in advertising and public relations, health communication and psychology.
“As a first generation student, this celebration meant the world to me, it is something I have looked forward to my entire life,” she said. “It makes all of those late nights, mental breakdowns, exhaustion and stress over the past four years worth it.”
In compliance with the stay-at-home order, Carver’s family plans to have a party with their household to celebrate her big day.
“My grandparents will be FaceTiming me while watching the virtual ceremony in their own home,” she said. “I am going to try my best to make this day just as great as it would be if things were normal.”
Marietta is still considering hosting an in-person ceremony at a later date and is asking for seniors’ opinions on the matter.
“Our options were late summer, homecoming weekend, December, or joining the Class of 2021," Carver said. “We do not know what that looks like yet or when it will be, but they are doing everything in their power to give us everything we should have experienced. I am grateful we will be able to experience this at a later date.”
Even with graduations changed, Carver and Johnson remain positive, celebrating in new ways and caring for their community members’ well being.
“I really feel for all of the other people whose lives/careers have been put on hold and hope that this all clears up for their sake,” Johnson said. “But, I am excited to be able to get out into the healthcare field and help the people who have been affected by this virus.”