By Carlissa Shaw

It is May, and May in Memphis is BIG. Typically, we are celebrating the good vibes, energy, music, and food of Memphis in May, and graduations. We love graduations in Memphis. Thousands of people pack the largest venues across town to see their loved one walk across that stage and receive a diploma or a degree. If you are like me, you have attended several Memphis graduations where the crowd is continually reminded, “please hold all your applause to after the name of each graduate has been called.” In Memphis, we show up. We celebrate the accomplishments of our folks, mane. 

Although quarantine has canceled most of the official graduation ceremonies, the celebration must continue. Here are a few ways to intentionally celebrate your graduate or yourself during this most unusual graduation season. 

First, book a photo shoot. Grab your cap and gown, book a professional photographer (no iPhone pictures), and take some amazing pictures all around town. Your cap and gown are symbolic of your momentous accomplishment, and a photo shoot is a perfect way to capture this moment forever. Whether you post the photos on social media or print them for your grandparents, you can not go wrong with a photoshoot celebrating such a tremendous accomplishment. 

Location ideas:    

  •    Beale Street Landing
  •    Central Station
  •    Crosstown Concourse
  •    Memorial Park
  •    Peabody Rooftop
  •    Memphis sign at Mud Island

Host a virtual graduation commencement: Although there is nothing like having your friends and family in person, this will have to do for now. Zoom and other online platforms that allow multiple users to engage in virtual meetups can be used now until we can once again safely gather to celebrate this accomplishment. Zoom is helpful to include family and friends that live out of town on your special day. Pick a date and time, and invite your folks to your virtual graduation. Oh, and go all out. Have decorations, food, and a commencement speaker. Make it unique just for you. 

Plan a drive-by graduation celebration: Grab your yard signs, banners, family, friends, blow horns, and whatever else you can think of to have a drive-by graduation party. Folks drive by in their cars to the home of the graduate and celebrate the graduate’s accomplishment. Drive-by graduations are a safe, fun, and in-person alternative until it is safe to gather again.  

Plan and save for an extraordinary trip for when the world reopens: Outdoors will reopen, and when it does, the Class of 2020 should be ready to explore it. Take this time to research your travel options, plan your trip, and save up to pay for the trip cash (no credit cards). Traveling is an essential part of the growth and development of a young person’s outlook on the world, and the Class of 2020 can use this extra time to save and plan a trip to remember. 

Last but not least, take advantage of all the online commencement speeches. I have graduated three times, and I can not tell you the name of any of my commencement speakers. I do not recall what they said or any of them leaving a lasting impact. Although I was fortunate to have formal graduation ceremonies, I was not lucky to have notable graduation speakers. The Class of 2020 collectively has the most notable graduation speakers in the history of graduations, and you should take advantage of each of them. Learn words of wisdom, be inspired by the stories, and decide to be great. 

The Class of 2020 will change the world. It is often said that greatness and innovation are created during the toughest times. Our country and our world are facing an unprecedented challenge, and the Class of 2020 will create and innovate out of this darkness. Even if unconventional, we still have to celebrate our graduates. Take the time to celebrate every achievement, no matter how big or small. To the Class of 2020, you did it. Turn your tassel with your head held high. We are proud of you and look forward to the amazingness you will add to the world. 

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