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Celebrating Commencement With a Parade-Style Party

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2020 Commencement jumping graduates

UCC held a socially distanced, drive-thru event for this year's graduates on Friday, June 12.

ROSEBURG, Oregon – Umpqua Community College’s (UCC) Class of 2020 faced some of the most significant challenges they will ever encounter in their academic lives. Just as they were approaching the finish line to complete their studies and receive their diplomas, the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly changed everything. Not only did their courses move to online delivery methods and physically remove them from campus, they received early word that the College’s traditional commencement ceremony would be canceled as well.

As the nationwide shutdown restrictions began to ease, UCC wanted to make sure these graduates received the worthy celebration they earned and deserved. Following a quick change of plans, the College threw a socially distanced, parade-style party for this year’s graduates on Friday, June 12.

As the roughly 100 cap-and-gowned participants lined up in decorated vehicles that stretched through campus parking lots, Board of Education members, staff members, and faculty dressed in commencement regalia lined the parking lot outside of Jacoby Auditorium. Following a pre-event performance by the Umpqua Singers and an opening speech by UCC President Debra Thatcher, the caravan of grads started to move through the line. While the event was live-streamed on the campus’ YouTube channel for people at home, radio partners KQUA 99.7FM and i101FM broadcast the event so the graduates could listen in their cars.

The first student in line was this year’s Harry Jacoby Award recipient. Jesika Barnes was selected by faculty to receive the College’s highest award that is given annually to a graduate who demonstrates high academic achievement and outstanding campus and community involvement. Barnes served as this year’s student government president and participated in numerous activities and groups on and off campus. The award is named in honor of the College’s first president.

As graduates made their way through the drive-thru celebration, each had their names and degrees read while Board of Education members handed out diploma covers. The graduates then proceeded to drive through a gauntlet filled with wildly cheering, supportive faculty and staff members. At the end of the 45-minute event, graduates of all types—degree, certificate, and GED—crossed the finish line. Even Yoncalla’s youngest mayor in history, Ben Simons, passed through the line to receive his diploma as well.

After the final car rolled through, Board of Education Chair Steve Loosley stepped to the podium to confer the graduates’ degrees and announce the official tassel move from right to left.

“What I loved most about this ceremony is that our family members got to be with us as we accepted our diplomas,” Sophavid Choum-Starkey, a GED graduate, said. “If this had been a traditional ceremony, they would not have had this opportunity.”

Congratulations to UCC’s Class of 2020 graduates. You did it!

A link to the event photo album is located on the UCC Facebook page.

About Umpqua Community College

Nestled in the beautiful North Umpqua River Valley, Umpqua Community College is the regional center for higher education in Douglas County, Oregon. UCC provides high quality college degree programs, workforce development, and community learning opportunities.

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