Despite last-minute ceremony switch, proud students, families celebrate graduations

District rescheduled 7 outdoor graduations Thursday, Friday over concerns about weather

4 Duval County High School Graduations this morning
4 Duval County High School Graduations this morning

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a year where students became used to adapting to change because of COVID-19, seniors at seven Jacksonville high schools got another dose of that this week when their commencement ceremonies were moved up on short notice because of concerns about the weather.

Seven Duval County high schools rescheduled outdoor graduations set for the evening because of rain in the forecast.

Ed White, Sandalwood, and Mandarin all had their ceremonies at 9 a.m. Thursday, and Raines, Terry Parker, First Coast, and Englewood high schools hosted their ceremonies in their outdoor stadiums at 9 a.m. Friday.

“The pandemic did make it really hard, but I am glad to say I made it through. We definitely did it this year and a congrats to 2021,” said First Coast High graduate Aalenna Hebert, who plans to attend Strayer University and then go into real estate. “I have been waiting for this ever since my 9th grade year. If I could say middle school too, I would; but I have been waiting for this for a long time.”

Hebert’s god-sister came from Atlanta to cheer her on and reflect on the year of triumphs through the pandemic.

“She isolated herself, but it was worth it. She had to adapt to new schedules, but it was worth it,” Elizabeth Jones-Hinton said. “It was perfect. She did it -- a warrior.”

Nadiya Spangler walked across the stage at First Coast High with her emotional support dog, Zeus.

“He does a lot for her,” Nadiya’s grandmother, Denise Spangler, said. “She’s the first one in her family to graduate.”

And grandma couldn’t be prouder.

Gabrielle Edge’s grandmother came in from South Carolina to watch the ceremony and said she was not inconvenienced by the change of plans made by the district

“It’s an honor just to be here today, not only for her but for all of them,” Dell Edge said.

Christian Perales’ uncle, Joel Perales, also had no complaints about the last-minute change.

“Really excited to be here to enjoy it. It’s a good opportunity that we’re actually able to be open and here to enjoy the day,” he said.

According to the district’s site, three more schools will host commencement ceremonies on Monday.

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