By Meghan Durkin (V)

Following NJ Governor Phil Murphy’s announcement that school closures would be extended through the end of June, Pingry needed to adjust plans for graduation, which was originally supposed to be held on June 7. While the traditional in-person Commencement is not permissible amid the COVID-19 pandemic on the original date, the Pingry administration is working hard to celebrate the senior class in creative ways. 

To replace the typical Commencement, Pingry will release a video for the seniors on what would have been graduation day. Upper School Director Ms. Ananya Chatterji, who helped organize these new graduation plans, hopes the video will honor the seniors’ achievement until an in-person graduation is possible. Ms. Chatterji acknowledges the difficulties of truly celebrating seniors in the way many had hoped: “I keep feeling that no matter what we do, it’s not enough. Nothing replaces in-person hugs or conversations or special moments.” 

Despite these challenges, the Pingry community has worked to make the senior’s last months of high school as special as possible considering the circumstances. During May, seniors were sent balloons and their caps and gowns; each member of the senior class was also invited to campus to take photos with their families. On the seniors’ last day before starting their ISPs, Pingry released a video of messages from underclassmen and faculty celebrating the accomplishments and impact of the senior class. 

The significance of Commencement isn’t going unnoticed. Ms. Chatterji and the rest of the administration are dedicated to providing them with the experience, even if it is unconventional. “[Commencement] really is the dividing line between childhood and adulthood.  We have watched them grow up.  We have traveled this road with them.  The relationships that the seniors have formed with the faculty, with each other, and with the underclassmen is remarkable, important, and true. We want to mark this transition from childhood to adulthood, but we also want to celebrate with them,” noted Ms. Chatterji.

A traditional graduation is still in the works. Pingry has set aside three alternate dates for an in-person Commencement, either August 2nd, November 25th, or December 20th, depending on the extent of restrictions in New Jersey. The continued effort to offer this year’s seniors the true graduation experience is a testament to the importance of the event within the Pingry community. As Ms. Chatterji states, “Graduation is the biggest school event of the year.  It is the pinnacle of all that we stand for and believe in. The faculty, the senior class, and their parents — in one room — to mark the end of one journey and the start of a new one.” She hopes that, in the end, COVID-19 won’t stand in the way of honoring the seniors properly.