Pekin High School seniors to have in-person graduation

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PEKIN, Ill (WMBD) — This year has been a tough one for graduates, as many were stripped of the chance to walk across the stage and accept their diplomas.

Graduations were one of many traditions postponed and canceled over the last four months due to COVID-19. But as the state slowly reopens, we’re starting to see many making a come back.

Pekin Community High School (PCHS) is taking this opportunity to officially send off its seniors. The important milestone, which was canceled two months ago due to COVID-19, will be resurrected here in just two weeks.

“I’m so excited, I’ve been looking forward to this day for four years,” Brogan Gresham, a senior at PCHS, said.

The day Gresham is referring to is graduation. A day many Pekin High School students thought they wouldn’t get to (and almost didn’t) physically celebrate.

Superintendent Danielle Owens said there was a moment where they thought they’d have to take the virtual route, but as the state entered Phase 4 of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan, she said the possibility of hosting a physical ceremony became more likely.

“We did start to make plans for a virtual as well but realized our priory was still to have something face-to-face,” Owens said.

That’s a decision students like Brogan Gresham and Krista Carrington said they’re grateful for.

“It was relieving to see that we could actually have a ceremony like a lot of other schools in the neighboring area,” Carrington said.

Superintendent Owens said the ceremony will take place July 24 at Memorial Stadium which is able to seat up to 10,000 people. She said with about 375 graduates, social distancing and safety is the number one priority.

“The graduates will sit 10 feet apart from one another,” Owens said. “The audience members will be tiered in the bleachers so that they’re six feet away from other families.”

Gresham said she’s excited to see some familiar faces.

“Just seeing all of my classmates for the first time since March, I’m just excited to see everybody’s face,” Gresham said.

Carrington said although she’s happy for her school, she still feels for those who missed out.

“For the people that don’t necessarily get to experience that, it kind of makes me upset, but at the same time we’re all going to enter the next chapter of our lives in the same way,” Carrington said.

Owens said the city’s been very supportive of the school’s efforts to host the ceremony. She said she’s happy to try to provide their students will some sense of normalcy.

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