By: Mikaila Becze
I’m just two weeks out from what should have been my college commencement. Instead of crafting my personalized grad cap, I’m debating if it’s even worth buying a cap and gown for a commencement that has no official date. I’m calling my photographer to cancel my graduation photoshoot. And I’m telling my out of state family to postpone their flights that should have led them to watch me walk across the stage.
Commencement was brought to a halt for 2020 Nevadan graduates of all education levels when schools were forced to shut down due to COVID-19. Governor Steve Sisolak made the first call for all K-12 schools on March 15 and higher education levels followed soon after. I was one of the thousands of graduates who were affected by this.
I was determined to graduate college a year early, so I made it happen. I took at least 16 credits every semester, followed by summers filled up with more courses. When I wasn’t studying for school, I spent countless hours devoted to being a student-athlete. And once I faced an athletic-career ending injury my freshman year, I turned my focus to my career field in journalism.
I earned myself two jobs in media to get ahead of the game. I perfected the balancing act of working over 40 hours a week and going to school full time. I, among others, had spent so many sleepless nights keeping up with my school work to the point where having grey bags under my eyes became the new norm.
Stephen Myhal, a Kinesiology major at UNLV, went through a similar scenario— an injured college athlete that turned his focus to school and work. But instead, he worked anywhere between 40-80 hours a week while maintaining a top tier GPA that could get him into med school.
His main motive for graduating was to become the first college graduate in his family. He also one of the first members of his family to graduate high school.
“It’s disappointing because I had a lot of family and friends take time off work to celebrate such a huge accomplishment with me and now they don’t know if they’ll be able to make it.” Myhal said, “Its heart wrenching to have all the work and money I’ve spent to have this joyous moment stripped away.”
Ironically enough, the thing that kept me, and so many other students, pushing through the most was the thought of taking pictures in my red cap and gown with my family standing in front of the Thomas & Mack— the beloved campus location that is home to graduation for both college commencement and many CCSD high schools.
High school seniors aren’t breezing through these tough times either. Liberty High School senior, Abby Blumberg was devastated when she found out that her senior year was cut short.
“They were back and forth about what was going to happen,” Blumberg said, “Then COVID got worse and they completely postponed it. That’s when it sunk in and I started crying.”
Events that kids spend years dreaming about— like prom, senior night, senior sunset, and so many more memorable functions— were robbed from the class of 2020. Now, the question of when and where their own graduation will be held is still up in the air.
While UNLV is still anticipated to hold commencement at the Thomas & Mack, CCSD graduations will most likely be at each school’s own football field. CCSD graduations are normally held inside the Thomas & Mack or New Orleans. The number of friends and family who can attend will be limited to comply with CDC standards.
“I’m at the point where I don’t want a graduation anymore,” Blumberg said.
While this uncanny experience is slightly unique for every level of graduation, there is one challenge that many college graduates and work route high school seniors can agree on: finding a job when the state opens up will be rough. There’s no doubt of the economic crash that we’re all bracing for when the pandemic reigns under control.
According to the Wallstreet Journal, “Corona job losses could double those of the 2007-09 recession.” While the Las Vegas Review-Journal stated “Oxford economics ranked Las Vegas as the second most vulnerable state behind Maine” and that, “49 percent of Southern Nevada’s workers are in industries most at risk for job losses.”
With the idea of job losses up in the air, those who are new to the workforce are left wondering when they’ll get their shot at employment. To make things worse, while those laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19 were lucky enough to claim their share of the $2.2 trillion stimulus packages, most students were left out.
“That will include most high school and college students between ages 17 and 24 if they are claimed as a dependent on someone’s tax returns, even if they normally work and file taxes themselves.” stated a news release from US Senator Tina Smith’s office. “The All Dependents Count Act would expand eligibility for the $500 credit so that a taxpayer will receive a $500 credit for all dependents they care for – not just children age 16 and under.”
However, there is a small amount of light for many college students. Last Tuesday UNLV announced they had received money to give to students on a need basis through the COVID-19 CARES Act Grant.
The university has $11.8 million to give to students on a need basis. While not every student will be given the money, many will be able to receive $500-$1000 to help with any financial hardships during these times.
While things aren’t the best for graduating seniors, at least there is some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.