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Lockdown inspires bubble-graduation ceremonies

May 11, 2020

Lockdown inspires bubble-graduation ceremonies

[From top left] Bailey Te Maipi, Jake Togher, Sam Hiha, Carlos Speirs, Kate McLeod, Sara Thomas-Hall. Photos: Maia Hall and Bailey Te Maipi, Carlos Speirs, Kate Mcleod.

New graduates from all over the country have used lockdown to throw creative at-home graduation ceremonies, after Covid-19 restrictions meant cancelling large events.

Bailey Te Maipi was due to graduate from WelTec at the end of April, and although disappointed to miss her official ceremony, she said there was something especially fun about doing it at home.

“Honestly, it was probably even better because it was nice and short, all over and done with. I got the piece of paper and it was all about me. Bonus!” she says.

Ms Te Maipi’s whānau helped to make her day special by stitching a hood to go on her gown, crafting a homemade graduation cap, writing speeches and helping her curate the perfect graduation photo.

She also made herself a degree, which reads, “This certificate is awarded to Bailey Te Maipi, for agreeing to pay thousands of dollars for a piece of paper that doesn’t really mean anything and will most likely be left in a cupboard”.

Arts and science conjoint graduate Sara Thomas-Hall involved her socially-distancing, cheering neighbours as she paraded down her street after planning an elaborate day to celebrate her four years of study.

Video by Maia Hall.

Meanwhile, a group of engineering graduates in Auckland threw their own celebration in true flatting style, cutting costs by making caps from Asahi beer boxes, and draping towels over their shoulders to replace the traditional gown.

Video by Carlos Spier.

A WelTec media representative says graduation is such an important milestone for their students and for whānau who often spend a lot of time and money to be there.

“For many of our students this is the first time anybody in their family has a qualification outside of school,” she says.

Helen Gardiner, the director for learner journey at WelTec and Whitireia, says the decision to cancel this year’s ceremonies was disappointing but completely out of their hands.

She says WelTec’s 2020 graduates are invited to take part in next year’s ceremonies instead, which will give families more certainty, rather than hoping to graduate in the coming months and potentially having to cancel again.

The National Student Union president Isabella Lenihan-Ikan says she has been to about 20 graduation ceremonies, and has seen how much it means to people to walk across the stage wearing that traditional cap and gown.

“They are so special for every student, and it is an opportunity to really understand that it's a village that enables students to graduate,” she says.

She hopes students will be able to have an official procession at some point, but seeing plenty of students’ "in-bubble" ceremonies on social media has been a lovely way to celebrate with family.

Far from being just a Kiwi trend, Michelle and Barack Obama are hosting a virtual graduation ceremony for #Classof2020, recognising American graduates who are missing out too.

"Michelle and I are excited to celebrate the nationwide Class of 2020 and recognise this milestone with you and your loved ones," President Obama wrote on Instagram.

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