ALBEMARLE — Back in mid-May, Stanly Community College’s Graduation Planning Committee had an unresolved question to answer. What would be the best way to handle its 2020 commencement ceremony in compliance with social distancing standards?
According to SCC President Dr. John Enamait, the committee initially reserved the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center for multiple days in August, but then received feedback from students who felt that August was too late in the year for a commencement event.
The committee began to ponder the prospect of a virtual graduation ceremony before deciding that its graduates deserved something more official.
“For some of our students, this is the last time they’ll walk across the stage, and I didn’t want to take that experience away from them,” Enamait told SCJ.
A final decision was soon established; the committee rented a stage, as well as multiple tents, in order to enact its first-ever drive-thru graduation at its Albemarle campus.
Between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on June 8 through June 11, SCC successfully completed its plan, allowing students to walk across a graduation stage set up in the parking lot between the college’s Eddins Building and Whitley Building to receive their diplomas.
“It’s unfortunate that we had to go to a ‘Plan C’ or ‘Plan D’ for our graduates, but in reality, given the pandemic, I’m pleased overall with the experience we were able to provide to the students,” Enamait said.
“In some ways, it was a better experience for some of our students, because it was a much more intimate experience than when they’re at the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center with 200 other people.”
In past years, SCC has used the Agri-Civic Center as its primary location for its annual commencement ceremony, but due to safety concerns regarding COVID-19, SCC chose to go a more cautionary route this time around.
“With the drive-thru ceremony, students were able to park, get out of their car with their families, and take pictures,” Enamait said. “We had some graduates who had kids, and we let the kids come across the stage with them. It was more informal but allowed for a more personalized experience, and some of the feedback that we’ve gotten from students has been very positive.”
The preparation for the outdoor event required teamwork from SCC employees, who assisted in setting up the stage, tents, and directional signs, among other preparatory tasks.
“It’s humbling to think about how hard the faculty and staff worked,” Enamait said. “We have a committee that worked tirelessly to put this event on — that’s what makes Stanly so special.”
On June 8, graduates from SCC’s health science programs received their diplomas, while June 9 featured Public Services, and College and Career Readiness graduates. Stanly Early College borrowed SCC’s setup that Tuesday night for its own drive-thru graduation ceremony, which promptly wrapped up before a storm arrived in Albemarle.
Students graduating from university transfer programs walked across the stage on June 10, while Advanced Manufacturing, Industry, Business, Technology and Trades students received their diplomas on June 11.