Thousands of students sign petition to bring back in-person graduation ceremonies

·3 min read
As of Wednesday afternoon, Anoosha Keshav's petition for in-person grad ceremonies has been signed by more than 12,500 people. Madison Reaume, right, a grade 12 student at Tecumseh Vista Academy, signed and agrees graduation can be done safely.  (Submitted by Anoosha Keshav, Submitted by Madison Reaume - image credit)
As of Wednesday afternoon, Anoosha Keshav's petition for in-person grad ceremonies has been signed by more than 12,500 people. Madison Reaume, right, a grade 12 student at Tecumseh Vista Academy, signed and agrees graduation can be done safely. (Submitted by Anoosha Keshav, Submitted by Madison Reaume - image credit)

Thousands of high school students across the province — and their supporters — are demanding the Ontario government allow in-person graduation ceremonies.

"The current Grade 12s have not been able to experience any graduation activities that we have been looking forward to since Grade 9, such as graduation photos (for some schools) and prom," the petition reads.

"As if our senior year has not been made any worse, the news that our graduation ceremony will be a prerecorded video is extremely disappointing."

The petition was started by 17-year-old Anoosha Keshav, a grade 12 student from from Mississauga, Ont. She said graduates have worked too hard and they are measures that can be taken to ensure ceremonies are safe for everyone.

"A graduation ceremony with physical distancing and wearing masks is possible. Vaccine rollouts are also starting," said Keshav, citing recent comments from some experts who say many outdoor activities have a low risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Among those who signed the petition is 18-year-old Madison Reaume, a grade 12 student at Tecumseh Vista Academy. She said after reading through it, it made a compelling case for an in-person ceremony that she "agreed" can be done safely.

Seventeen-year-old Madison Reaume, a grade 12 student at Tecumseh Vista Academy,  is among those who signed a petition calling for in-person graduation ceremonies.
Seventeen-year-old Madison Reaume, a grade 12 student at Tecumseh Vista Academy, is among those who signed a petition calling for in-person graduation ceremonies.(Submitted by Madison Reaume)

"Students have been struggling in so many ways this past year and we've all been very isolated from each other," said Reaume, adding an in-person ceremony is not impossible considering "we've learned a lot about outdoor transmission" since the start of this pandemic.

"We've already given up so much of the teenager experience. We gave up dating and driver's licenses and sports and our education. It's certainly compromised our education — and I think one, last, somewhat-normal event will make it feel like it was all worth it."

For Reaume, it's important that all graduates get together "one last time" to celebrate their accomplishments in a school year that has transpired like no other.

We've already given up so much of the teenager experience. We gave up dating and driver's licenses and sports and our education. It's certainly compromised our education — and I think one, last, somewhat-normal event will make it feel like it was all worth it." - Madison Reaume, grade 12 student at Tecumseh Vista Academy

And for Keshav, not having an in-person graduation ceremony is the only way to "end the year off on a good note."

"So we spent the entire year — first year, in a pandemic, and half of our grade 11 year — and we just want this one thing to celebrate our accomplishments and one last time to see our friends and teachers before we go through different paths."

The petition has garnered "overwhelming" support, Keshav said. In fact, as of Wednesday afternoon, it has more than 12,500 signatures — inching forward toward the goal of 15,000.

Keshav is aiming to attend the University of Toronto in the fall to study forensic sciences. Meanwhile, Reaume plans to study actuarial accounting at the University of Windsor.

Hear more from Anoosha Keshav and Madison Reaume on the CBC's Windsor Morning:

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