Small school’s in-person graduation drew big smiles

5 graduate from Hope Christian Academy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While many schools are holding virtual graduation ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hope Christian Academy in Sans Souci decided to hold an in-person graduation ceremony Wednesday for its five graduates.

It was an expedited, 15-minute ceremony with social distancing. The graduates sat in front of the principal as she gave her encouraging words for success for their futures and said this has been one of the most trying times.

“It was just coming off of spring break so we were prepared academically to send home what I call learning packets for the students after we found out we were going to be extended throughout the year,” Principal Dr. Faye Cohen said. “We got them onto the online platform and there were some tears there were some frightening moments that they shared.”

Cohen said the school decided to hold in-person graduation ceremony because 85% of Hope Christian Academy’s students come from diverse backgrounds and some are first-generation graduates. The school did not want to overlook their accomplishment.

“It felt really good. I’m happy I worked hard for it and I made it,” valedictorian Elex Musa said.

The ceremony started with a scripture reading.

“Be encouraged because you’re going to face more challenging times than COVID-19,” Cohen said told the graduates.

Her message to students: stay strong.

“We all agreed that this is such a momentous occasion that we could not allow this to not take place and not be a part of it, so we wanted to celebrate with them because we don’t know what the future holds,” Cohen said.

The decision to hold in-person graduation ceremony is because 85% of Hope Christian Academy students come from diverse backgrounds and some are first-generation graduates and the school did not want to overlook this accomplishment.

“It’s going to be OK. We’re here. COVID-19 did not take us away and COVID did not take your strength away,” she said.

Graduates sat in chairs socially distanced with their masks on and one-by-one crossed the stage to receive their diplomas.

“I feel special. I feel special for that for the opportunity because other students don’t have that. I thank my principal and everybody," Musa said.

Although you couldn’t see it beneath the masks -- smiles were beaming through.

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