VENICE — A slow, deliberate line of Venice High School graduates will flow into and out of the Venice Performing Arts Center on Thursday.

The Caps and Gowns ceremony begins early and runs all day as an effort to recognize the Class of 2020 graduates.

The event was put together after two graduations were canceled, leading to a variety of residents and politicians suggesting alternative ceremonies.

Venice High School will host the event from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 16 at the Venice Performing Arts Center.

Class of 2020 graduate and Student Body President Jillian Alexander will be among those taking part.

“I’m looking forward to being there with my family. This has been pretty upsetting to me and members of my family,” she said Tuesday. “I get to walk across the stage in one way or another.”

She said the second half of the senior year for the Class of 2020 has been “an emotional roller coaster.”

“It took a sharp turn,” Alexander said, noting the cancellations of events and the pandemic that has put the class in a different world.

But she said she tries to be optimistic.

“I hope it will make us more resilient in the future and focus on what really matters in the end,” she said. “I personally haven’t been impacted too severely by this pandemic and I think it’s really important to be grateful.”

She said her family has remained healthy and hasn’t felt the economic pinch some have.

The school is hoping to give the Class of 2020 a memory Thursday.

“Graduates and families will enter the VPAC to the playing of ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ receive your diploma cover, and walk across the stage as your name is being called,” the high school said in a social media post.

Venice High School Principal Eric Jackson said last week about 70% of the class of 2020 has reserved a time for Thursday’s event.

Originally, the class was to have a ceremony in May. That was rescheduled for July 18 at CoolToday Park in Wellen Park. As COVID-19 cases started to spike a few weeks ago, that event was scrapped.

Alexander had a part in those ceremonies — and the virtual ceremony.

In her welcoming portion, she was going to talk about her freshman year, putting up posters that talked about her class that said: “Now you’re seeing 20/20.”

“I really wanted to convey that our vision is so much clearer than we would have imagined our freshman year,” Alexander said. “We really know the definition of resiliency and the important things in life like gratitude.”

Venice High School counselor Nicole Wolfe, the senior class adviser, has been working the event. She said they are anticipating 300-400 seniors and their families will take part, with four students going through every 10 minutes.

“This is what we’ve been giving as an opportunity to celebrate the graduations,” Wolfe said. “Obviously, it’s not what we had hoped for but we’re going to do our best to make it special.”

She said most parents appreciate something being provided.

“We’re going to set up the stage like we would be set for a graduation ceremony,” she said. “It’s as close as we can really make it.”

Along with events like prom and Project Graduation, the class has missed out on graduation walks at the elementary school, which has become popular among seniors, she said.

She said things have been done “a whole different way this year.”

“Hopefully, this is going to be quite a powerhouse group of students and find a silver lining in the pandemic and not get so wrapped up in the negative,” she said.

Wolfe, who has been at Venice High for 15 years, noted the Class of 2020 was born in the era of the 9/11 attacks, including at least one born on Sept. 11, 2001. Students were excited as the year began, she said.

“We had such optimism ... to be the Class of 2020 and to talk about ‘clear vision’ — and for it to go completely downhill, we definitely did not see this coming,” she said. “But as a whole, they have been resilient. They were the class born into 9/11 and they are graduating in a pandemic.”


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