Grace Christian Academy held the CNMI’s first drive-thru high school graduation ceremony in compliance with all the current directives in place for COVID-19, with Arvin S. Dayao and Lyzelle D. Castillo leading 20 graduating seniors last Friday.
The graduation ceremony, the islands’ first such drive-thru high school graduation rites, ended with a parade. The ceremony, which was significantly shorter than normal, ended in less than an hour and had the graduates sit in their cars while they wait for their names to be called.
When the student was called, they would then walk up to the table at the center of the stage, pick up their trophies, awards, and their diploma, pose for a photo, and then walk back to their car before the next student is called.
According to Dayao, who was named valedictorian, the graduation ceremony was far from normal and was unexpected but it was overall still a special moment. “It’s a sigh of relief. It wasn’t the graduation I expected, but it was still a really special moment and it was just nice to share this moment with my class because I didn’t expect this to happen,” he said.
As part of a graduating class in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, Dayao encourages his fellow graduates to cherish every moment. “You really don’t know what’s going to happen anymore. I didn’t expect this, but just be glad with what you have,” he said.
Dayao will be attending Colby College in Maine and aims to major in biology and ultimately enter medical school.
Castillo, who was named the salutatorian, said that it’s unfortunate that their class had to experience a pandemic and graduate in the midst of it, but it is also inspiration for future graduating classes that nothing should hinder their education.
“We’re probably making history as the first class to graduate and succeed despite a pandemic. But I just want to encourage others that nothing should stop us from achieving success. I feel like all my hard work has paid off and I’m really thankful also for my parents. They’re the reason I achieved all of this,” she said.
Castillo plans to attend the University of Portland and major in biology.