Parents in Virginia push for in-person graduation

Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 5:55 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — When the announcements went out for plans for another virtual graduation, some mothers across Virginia got together to take a stand. The group is reaching out to their children’s schools, as well as and state legislators, to make in-person graduation happen.

Terrie Besnier’s daughter is a senior at James Madison University (JMU). She says she reached out to parents on Facebook groups and now is connected to other parents throughout the state, like Lynn Stephens, Nicole Kreamer and Stefani Motley.

They all have seniors in high school and college, and want to see their kids walk the stage for that “crowning moment.” They have garnered support from State Senator Siobhan Dunnavant and are hoping the governor will make a change.

“It’s a rite of passage. It’s a step in the right direction for healing, it shows these kids that yes, the governor cares about them, the universities care about them. There are a lot of students right now that think nobody cares,” said Besnier.

Beisner says about 5,400 people have signed the three surveys and petitions in favor of an in-person ceremony.

“This graduating class of 2021, what they have endured and shown tremendous grace and determination and resilience, it’s very impressive,” said Stephens. “For them to not have the opportunity that’s been the light at this very dark tunnel, to walk across the stage, it’s leaving them feeling very despondent, to say the least, that nobody cares about them.”

They are urging the governor to change graduation from a “social gathering” to an event, and they expect to abide by CDC guidelines. Kreamer’s daughter is a senior at Virginia Tech, and she’s calling out the double standard when it comes to sporting events.

“They recently, after this decision was announced to hold a virtual commencement, released tickets for the baseball season,” Kreamer said. “So, it just doesn’t make sense, it’s very contradictory, if we’re using the same or similar venue, why we can’t have the same or similar amount of attendees.”

Right now, graduations are deemed social gatherings, meaning there can be no more than 25 people.

“Every student deserves to hear their name called and to walk across that stage. They’ve worked hard,” said Besnier. “They just need a grand finale and we need to cheer them on.”

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