At Spectrum Field, Pinellas high school seniors walk the stage in an 'abbreviated' ceremony

The graduation class of 2020 in Pinellas County is finally experiencing the biggest milestone of their high school career. 

Seniors get to wear their full cap and gown and walk across the stage, starting Tuesday at Spectrum Field. The Pinellas County School District is hosting graduations for all high schools over the next three days.

Dezmya Johnson has been waiting for a long time.

“I didn’t think this was every going to happen actually,” she said. “I wanted to walk across the stage. Everyone deserves to walk across the stage. It’s important because you only do this once in a life time.”

They aren’t typical graduation ceremonies. Each graduate is allowed to bring four guests. Everyone is required to wear a mask.

In order to practice social distancing, ceremonies this week will be abbreviated, everyone will have to space out and there will be caps on the number of guests that can attend.

Each grad can invite up to four guests. Seniors will still get the chance to walk to the stage and take photos with their principals. They’ll even be given special Class of 2020 masks to wear. 

“I was excited I got to walk across the stage. It’s great,” grad Karamon Combes said. “A mask?  I love it. It’ll be a little memorial for my graduation.”

“It was very exciting,” Haley Johnson offered. “It was nice because my family got to watch me; my son.”

To keep everyone spaced out, grads and their guests are given assigned parking areas and assigned entry times for the stadium. No hugging or handshaking is allowed. The idea here is to keep the procession moving.

Parents are still able to go up to the stage to snap their own photos of their graduate, but traditional ceremonial events, including speeches, have been pre-recorded and uploaded online for seniors to watch on their own.

Pinellas school administrators said it was important to them to give seniors a chance to walk the stage, but holding an in-person ceremony wasn’t a decision the made lightly.

“We recognize the importance of celebrating the accomplishment but also have a duty to do it safely and responsibly," said Dr. Rita Vasquez, high school education executive director for the school district. "Every option was carefully considered and every decision was made putting the health and safety of our students, families and staff first.”

Roman Perretti says the hard work was all worth it. He didn’t want to let any roadblocks stop him from reaching his goal.

“When I crossed the stage, I felt like I could accomplish anything because this is the one major thing that a human has to do in his life and it’s not the easiest thing to do. You have to do it to overcome it, to be here with a diploma in your hand to actually understand what you just did.”

Pinellas County will be continuing graduation ceremonies throughout the week. 

The ceremony schedule is: 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

  • Tarpon Springs HS: 7:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.
  • Pinellas Park HS: 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Countryside HS: 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
  • Osceola HS: 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

  • Seminole HS: 7:00 a.m. -9:00 a.m.
  • East Lake HS: 10:00 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.
  • Lakewood HS: 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Clearwater HS: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

  • Boca Ciega HS: 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
  • St. Petersburg HS: 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Northeast HS: 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Palm Harbor HS: 7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Friday, July 10, 2020

  • Gibbs HS: 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
  • Largo HS: 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
  • Dixie HS: 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Dunedin HS: 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.