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SLO High School seniors face postponement of graduation day, look forward to the future

Posted at 7:17 AM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 10:17:07-04

High school graduations are supposed to happen in just a couple weeks but Central Coast seniors are expecting those ceremonies to look a lot different due to the coronavirus.

After a year of hard work academically and as a member of the swim team, San Luis Obispo High senior Bella Garritano had been imagining her final day on campus.

"Hot day, ton of people in the stands, cap and gown, lots of people taking pictures afterwards," Garritano said.

But the images of graduation that have motivated Garritano for the last year are fading away with each passing day of the pandemic.

Graduation SLO High School is supposed to take place June 5, but as of now, no seniors will walk across Holt Field on that day to accept their diploma.

Garritano is now setting her sights on the future.

"Corona permitting, I'll be attending Concordia University Irvine and I'll be swimming," Garritano said.

Garritano leaves behind a high school career as a standout swimmer, a distinction her father calls bittersweet.

"To miss out on that senior season of doing that," Garritano's father, James, said. "San Luis High school was conference champs three years in a row and to try and get that fourth would've been huge."

For this graduating class of 2020, the school year started out with promise. But by March, things took an unforeseen turn for seniors like San Luis Obispo High student Zack Egan.

"It's disappointing because I expected to like enjoy this with all my friends," Egan said. "It's supposed to be something big, a friendship family thing we all do together."

His mother agreed, calling graduation an important coming of age moment.

"For me - at that age, it symbolized stepping into adulthood," Egan's mother, Dana Doneza, said.

Parents are left to reflect on their own graduations and the importance of that milestone.

"All the fun stuff that I remember I did when I graduated, just to know they can't do a lot of those things is pretty disappointing," Garritano's father said.

Now, moms and dads are stepping up with creative ways to honor their seniors, posting signs and planning virtual ceremonies.

Garritano said SLO High School administrators asked her graduating class by email if they'd prefer a virtual graduation ceremony or a postponed in-person event. She voted for a physical event.

But even without the traditional celebration, these seniors know the coronavirus can't take away their achievements.

"I know at the end of the day, it's not the ceremony that matters, it's that we're going onto bigger better things," Garritano said.

Garritano plans to major in psychology, while Egan intends to study kinesiology at Cuesta College.