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Derek Carr to 2020 Grads: Don’t Miss Out on Alternative Ceremonies



Side-by-side images of Raiders QB Derek Carr and graduates tossing their graduation caps
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COVID-19 has put the kibosh on traditional large-scale graduation ceremonies in May and June for the Class of 2020, but graduates are being celebrated in new and different ways.

The celebrations are virtual for now, but districts and colleges are vowing still to have the real deal, either later this summer or another future date, once the threat of the coronavirus pandemic has eased.

So for now, it’s online videos, graduates in their caps and gowns crossing a stage by themselves, and taped messages — including one by Las Vegas Raiders quarterback and Fresno State alum Derek Carr.

Fresno Unified School District

Fresno Unified’s virtual celebrations will recognize all seniors and include student and staff videos, messages from trustees, superintendent Bob Nelson, and the school principal, certification of graduates, and the turning of the tassel.

They will be broadcast on PBS Channel 18, Comcast Xfinity Channel 94 or AT&T U-Verse Channel 99,, and will be available to download.

The virtual celebrations kicked off last week with Design Science Middle College High School and resume this week.

  • Thursday: 11 a.m., Fresno Adult High School; 4 p.m., DeWolf High School; 7 p.m., J.E. Young Academic Center; 7:30 p.m., Cambridge High School
  • Friday: 11 a.m., Rata High School
  • June 1: 4 p.m., Sunnyside High School; 7 p.m., Duncan Polytechnic High School; 8 p.m., Roosevelt High School
  • June 2: 4 p.m., Fresno High School; 7 p.m., McLane High School; 8 p.m., Bullard High School
  • June 3: 4 p.m., Edison High School; 7 p.m., Patino School of Entrepreneurship; 7:30 p.m., Hoover High School

Clovis Unified School District

Clovis Unified School District’s 2,700 graduates started crossing the stage one at a time today in mini-ceremonies that are being livestreamed. As family members cheer off-camera —seniors are limited to no more than four — each graduate is announced, poses for photos with the principal and diploma, and then turns his or her tassel.

In addition to the livestreaming, videos customized for each school with flag salute, songs, principal’s remarks, senior speeches, student awards and graduates’ names will be released on the school’s website by 7:30 p.m. on graduation day.

The district’s high school graduation videos will also be aired June 6 on PBS and CMAC’s Educational Channel.

And, on the night of the originally scheduled ceremony, spotlights on the home campus will illuminate the sky in school colors as a tribute to seniors.

Livestream diploma presentations and graduation programs are on the following schedule:

Madera Unified School District

Madera Unified’s graduates were filmed crossing a graduation stage last week in Memorial Stadium for a video that will be combined with student-submitted videos.

The district hired Windsong Productions to film the “Senior Send-Off” Commemorative Videos for the Class of 2020. It will be shown online in early June.

In an effort to spur on participation by the graduating seniors, a video promoting the Senior Send-Off project concludes with a cameo appearance by quarterback Derek Carr.

“The video that your teachers and administrators are working on is absolutely phenomenal,” Carr says as the words “AND HE NEVER LIES.” is superimposed over his face. “And I encourage you guys to be a part of this thing.

“I know you guys don’t care much about these kind of things right now, but 10 to 20 years from now (“SO IF YOU WON’T LISTEN TO US, LISTEN TO HIM”), take it from somebody like me who would love to have memories like this that my teachers and things were working on. So get involved in this thing. I promise you, down the road, you’re gonna wish you had it. You guys can laugh at yourselves, show your kids, and all those fun things.”

Central Unified School District

Central Unified seniors got caps and gowns earlier this month and appointment cards for when they would be videotaped walking across a stage and have their photo shot with a diploma case.

But family members had to remain in the car while cheering for their grad, to maintain appropriate social distancing.

The district is preparing a Graduation Ceremony video with speeches by principals and class presidents, and of course the graduates’ videos.

The Central High School video will air at 7 p.m. June 11 on PBS 18.1, Comcast Xfinity 8, DirecTV/Dish 18, and AT&T Uverse 18. Pershing Continuation High School/Pathway Community Day School will air at 6 p.m. June 15 on CMAC and the Central USD YouTube and Facebook accounts. CLASS (Central Learning Adult/Alternative School Site) will be at 6 p.m. June 17 on CMAC and the Central USD YouTube and Facebook accounts.

Fresno City College

Five videos are on the college’s commencement website, including one that starts with the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” that typically heralds the arrival of graduates trudging to their seats as family and friends cheer.

But President Carole Goldsmith’s voice echoes in the empty hall as she gives her address while wearing the regalia that she normally would don for a graduation ceremony.

The keynote speaker is Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, a Fresno City college alum. The other videos feature Don Lopez, vice president of instruction, Lataria Hall, vice president of student services, and DeRon Walker, president of the college’s Associated Student Government.

Clovis Community College

Pictures of graduates and sometimes family members are stitched together in a nearly 38-minute video that include messages from State Center Community College District Chancellor Paul Parnell, college President Lori Bennett, and local politicos.

“This celebration will not replace our postponed Commencement Ceremony,” the college said. “However, it will give us an additional opportunity to celebrate our students’ success.”

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email