Planned 2020 Celebrations
Below is a list of what other groups and organizations are already planning around the state to celebrate #AZClassOf2020 graduates. If you’ve got something planned, send us an email and we’ll add to this list as appropriate!
Aliento: In partnering with Telemundo Arizona and The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University, Aliento is hosting a special Grad eCommencement: Class of 2020 Celebration Ceremony on May 30, 2020 at 4 p.m. They will celebrate the hard work, dedication and accomplishments of the Class of 2020. This event is intended to celebrate high school graduates, community college graduates and university graduates. The goal is to uplift the diversity of stories of the class of 2020, especially children of immigrants, DACAmented students, undocumented students, students who come from mixed status families, first generation students, and the larger Aliento student community who have shown commitment to collective healing and transformative action. Everyone who wants to celebrate and honor 2020 graduates is welcome to attend, but you must register at alientoaz.org/grad.
#Graduate Together: America Honors The Class of 2020. Saturday, May 16, at 5 p.m. former President Barack Obama will deliver a commencement address to graduating seniors nationwide as part of an hour-long multimedia Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020 event. This program will be aired simultaneously Saturday evening by more than 20 broadcast TV and digital streaming partners. Joining Obama will be NBA star and school founder LeBron James, Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, the Jonas Brothers and soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe, among others. The event will feature highlights from thousands of student submissions, a collection of commencement addresses, celebrity performances and inspirational vignettes.
The XQ Institute compiled a graduation toolkit to help groups interested in planning virtual graduation ceremonies. This step-by-step guide equips you to rethink the high school graduation ceremony online, together with your community, while remaining socially distant. The toolkit can help schools translate key moments of the typical high school graduation experience––from opening music to commencement speakers and the presentation of diplomas—into a virtual environment. Most importantly, the toolkit provides ideas and tips for ensuring the ceremony remains student-centered, community-inspired, and accessible to all. Schools can also share your virtual celebrations by sharing them on social media using the hashtag #GraduateTogether.
#Graduation2020: Facebook and Instagram Celebrate the Class of 2020: On May 15, a commencement address will be given by Oprah Winfrey. Awkwafina, Jennifer Garner, Lil Nas X, Simone Biles, and more, will share words of wisdom for the class of 2020. Miley Cyrus will do a special performance of her hit song, “The Climb.” The ceremony will acknowledge high schools and colleges in the US by name, state by state, including photos and videos of the class of 2020 and messages from deans and principals across the country. The video will be shared on Facebook Watch and available at facebook.com/facebookapp. Highlights and more will be posted to the @instagram account on Instagram, and on contributors’ social media accounts. Graduates can also host their own virtual graduation ceremony and party via Facebook, with special features including a virtual graduation hub, custom filters, family and friends celebrations enabled by Messenger Rooms, and more.
Virtual Graduation Project: More than 40 Arizonans have answered the call to bring a bit of celebration, inspiration and wisdom to the 2020 graduates missing out on one of the biggest milestones of their lives. The Virtual Graduation Project: Speeches to Inspire Arizona’s Future Leaders includes speeches from the likes of these school leaders:
- Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kathy Hoffman
- Tolleson Elementary School District Superintendent, Dr. Lupita Hightower
- Belen Soto Elementary School Principal, Courtney Frazier (Litchfield Elementary School District)
- Sunnyslope High School Teachers (Glendale Union High School District)
- Junior Achievement
- Chasse Building Team Founder, Barry Chasse
These speeches bring the celebrations and cheering section directly to the graduating student – Eighth grade, High School and College messages included. Cox will be airing this on May 17 in Phoenix & Tucson and other areas they cover. All of the speeches will be released to the public to create a swirl of celebration for Arizona’s graduates from May 14 through 22.
AZ Ed News has created a digital yearbook for graduating high school seniors. Add your picture! The education news service also teamed up with ADM Group and The Brand Agency to offer students in Arizona public schools a chance to win $500 scholarships beginning May 1 – June 30, 2020. This new partnership will provide high school seniors with the opportunity to win a $500 scholarship for college-level institutions, including vocational schools and trade schools of their choice. Students can submit their online entries on azednews.com along with a short video explaining how the scholarship will be used. Students will be notified weekly during June and July. The scholarship funds will be mailed directly to the secondary institution.
EG Publishing (Hyper Local News: Deer Valley Times, North Tatum Times, North 32nd News, Scottsdale North News, The Scottsdale Standard, & Upper Westsider) is offering a fun opportunity to say congratulations to a graduate and providing 15% back to your local school.
KTAR 92.3 FM: Through a partnership with the Arizona Department of Education, the KTAR 92.3 FM news team are broadcasting valedictorian speeches from high schools across the state.
InMaricopa highlighted graduating seniors in its May issue.
Herald/Review Media: (Sierra Vista Herald, Bisbee Review): produced a special section dedicated to the graduating class of 2020.
Sierra Vista Heraldalso has an entire webpage photo gallery dedicated to the Class of 2020 and invited local seniors to submit their photo to display.
Verde Independent: This local publication changed their Facebook cover photo to a congratulations class of 2020 image and encouraged friends and family members to post messages.
Yuma Sun is hosting a virtual graduation to celebrate the class of 2020. Families can submit an announcement and profile of their favorite graduate to have them featured in the Virtual Graduation 2020 special section. Tout their accomplishments, share their photos, and wish them well!
COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES
Arizona State University: ASU will hold its commencement ceremonies for its almost 16,400 graduates on Monday and Tuesday at 9 a.m. dependent on specialized schools. The Monday ceremony will include congratulatory messages from former ASU commencement speakers, notable alumni and the undergraduate student government president. ASU President Michael Crow will be the keynote speaker. The university has said it will allow spring graduates to walk in either the December 2020 or May 2021 commencements.
ASU Havasu: 2020 graduates will be celebrated May 9 through a zoom virtual ceremony with restricted access. Campus Director Raymond Van der Riet will deliver the graduation message for Havasu students and it will be tailored to their experiences at the local campus. ASU professors will also participate. On May 11, ASU’s virtual commencement ceremony for the entire class of 2020 will be aired on YouTube. Havasu grads are welcome to submit their information and take part in that ceremony as well. 2020 graduates will also have the opportunity to attend the December 2020 or the Spring 2021 ceremonies.
Coconino Community College: Commencement and Nurse Pinning ceremonies will be offered “virtually” this year. A ‘Graduation in a Box’ will be sent to all students that will include the program, their tassel, a newly designed alumni pin and several other items to help them remember their time at CCC, The theme for this year’s virtual commencement is “We Are All in this Together.” The virtual ceremony will be available on the CCC homepage on Friday, May 15, beginning at 2 p.m., at coconino.edu. Additionally, any student wishing to do so will be most welcome to attend the Commencement ceremony next year.
Eastern Arizona College: Honored its 522 Class of 2020 graduates at a virtual commencement on May 8 at 7:30 p.m. on the College’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Graduates from the Class of 2020 are also invited to walk in the 2021 Commencement ceremony if they wish. After several speeches, the evening’s commencement ceremony concluded with the conferring of Associate of Arts, Associate of Business, Associate of General Studies, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science degrees to the graduation candidates. Graduates were encouraged to watch their mailboxes for a special package that was scheduled to arrive prior to the virtual commencement with instructions on how they can submit a photo for the virtual ceremony. Graduates will also receive an additional packet after commencement that includes a diploma and a small congratulations gift.
Mohave Community College: Nearly 550 students will graduate from Mohave Community College and are preparing for the next step in their educational journey or their career. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, MCC will not be conducting a traditional commencement exercise this semester. Instead, the college will hold an online recognition ceremony at 3 p.m. Friday, May 15 on its Facebook page and YouTube channel. Many graduates will continue their education by transferring to MCC’s university partners to complete their bachelor’s degree.
Northland Pioneer College is asking their graduates to participate in a graduation cap decorating contest and is also requesting photos of the student and statements about their post-graduation goals or plans, favorite memories of NPC and a short favorite quote. The school will create an individual “celebration post” and sharing them on the college’s Facebook page during the week of May 23 – 29. Graduates will receive a digital presentation of the event to keep as a keepsake. Learn more: npc.edu/2020-commencement.
Northern Arizona University‘s May commencement ceremonies, which would have been some of the largest graduations in the Skydome to date, will be held virtually. The university created a virtual Kudoboard to celebrate graduating students. Friends and family are invited to leave a note or video of congratulations: https://www.kudoboard.com/boards/NAUGrad.
Yavapai College: The college’s May 9 graduation will be held virtually. At yc.edu/commencement2020, the college will air its commencement ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. as it honors 1,470 candidates from the entire college district in one comprehensive presentation. Speakers for the ceremony include Yavapai College President Lisa Rhine; Diane Ryan, vice president of strategic initiatives and interim vice president of instruction; Deb McCasland, district governing board chair; and Kenneth Froessel, Verde Valley area student speaker. A digital program, as well as other commencement-related information, will also be available online at the time of the ceremony release online. Student ambassadors solicited photos and videos from graduates for a celebration video that is separate from the virtual ceremony. The 15-minute video will be shared on the college’s social media channels and posted on the college’s commencement web page.
University of Arizona: The UArizona will hold its virtual ceremony on May 15 at 6 p.m. Mountain climber and New York Times bestseller Alison Levine will serve as the keynote speaker. The university is also planning to hold an in-person graduation on Oct. 30.
Avondale Elementary School District: School staff have been distributing yard signs to kinder and 8th grade students homes. During the week of May 18, schools will be holding virtual ceremonies for kinder and 8th grade promotions, hosting car parades, drive through diploma celebrations and photo slideshows to celebrate these milestones. Some campuses are holding a virtual assembly to recognize 8th graders.
Bisbee Unified School District: A drive-in graduation ceremony will take place on Thursday, May 21 in Warren Ballpark. Students will still get to cross the stage in caps and gowns, and masks and gloves, to receive diplomas in the presence of their classmates and a limited number of family and friends. Seniors will be permitted one vehicle for their family to attend the event. Each of the seniors’ families in their one car will stage at the high school Thursday evening for a procession down to the ballpark. There will be chairs spaced a minimum of 10 feet apart that the graduate will sit in, directly in front of their families’ vehicles during the ceremony. Throughout the event, they will also be running the beloved traditional senior and baby photos on a loop without a soundtrack. Graduates will be called up one row at a time just like in the traditional ceremony, but will be required to keep the spacing that the grid design provides. Each senior will have their name called as they cross the stage, along with any scholarships and other special recognitions. Diplomas will be handed to the graduate by a gloved member of the school board or the diploma will be placed on a small table at the edge of the stage that the graduate can pick up. As they receive their diploma, a school photographer will take a photo of each graduate to be shared with them and their families in the days immediately after the ceremony. These photos will also be on the BHS website to honor their achievements. The entrance processional and the students crossing the stage will also be recorded. The video will also be made available online in the days after the ceremony, so that those unable to join the ceremony will be able to view it.
Blue Ridge High School: Outdoor signs bearing the graduates’ names were provided to all senior students to place in the front yard of their home. Handwritten, personalized letters mailed to every graduate apologizing for changes required due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vinyl portraits (3′ x 3′) of each graduate displayed in the front of Blue Ridge High along White Mt. Blvd. Graduates will report Saturday, May 16, during their appointed time, dressed in their caps and gowns to the Auditorium, to walk across the stage, to be recognized by name individually, and receive their diploma. Grads will also have their picture taken with the principal, superintendent, and a School Board member. Immediately following the presentation of the diplomas, Grads will exit the auditorium stage for a family photo taken with their parents and siblings. On May 29 at 7:30 PM, all grads will participate in a drive-in style graduation ceremony, including an invocation, brief opening remarks from the administration, talks provided by the Valedictorian, Salutatorian, and a benediction. A senior video will be played, which captures students’ receiving their diploma, as well as the traditional senior video, with pictures of each graduate.
Buckeye Union High School District: On Saturday, May 16, grads-to-be will be able to cross Phoenix Raceway’s start/finish line with their family and friends. Beginning at 10 a.m., over 1,000 graduates inside vehicles with their loved ones will take to the one-mile oval that will host the 2020 NASCAR Championship Weekend. Led by Toyota Camry pace cars, graduates will hear their names aloud on the track’s public address system as they cross the start/finish line. As a graduation gift, Phoenix Raceway will provide each student a free ticket to the Lucas Oil 150 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Championship race on Friday, Nov. 6.
Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District: Hosting drive-through 8th grade parking lot promotion ceremonies.
Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary School District: Hosting an 8th grade promotion parade. This “vehicle” parade will begin on Thursday, May 21 at 5:30 pm, beginning at the Verde Community Church back parking lot and ending at the school. Each 8th grader will be allowed one car per family in the parade. Other family members can park along the parade route to honor and cheer on our students. Cars can be decorated and the Clarkdale Police Department will be organizing vehicles at the staging area beginning at 5:15 pm and will escort the cars through the parade route to the school beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Coolidge Unified School District: The city of Coolidge is lighting the water tower each Thursday night through May 21 with the school colors – red and blue. The district ordered individual banners for each graduate (about 140) that includes their photo and name and are delivering caps and gowns along with their diplomas to each home. The city is putting the banners up and down State Highway Arizona Blvd. They are also planning a virtual graduation and a huge celebration for all kids and alumni Homecoming weekend in October, if possible. Their plan entails 2020 graduates walking the halls of the elementary schools on Thursday; participating in the parade and that night having an in person graduation ceremony on the football field. The Homecoming game would be played on Friday. On Saturday, a carnival for all elementary kids celebrating and a Homecoming Prom (not a Homecoming dance) for 2020 graduates on Saturday night. Many alumni are planning their reunions that weekend also to celebrate current students and their classes.
Flagstaff Unified School District: Coconino High School, Flagstaff High School, and Summit High School will hold graduation processions on Fourth Street in Flagstaff, Arizona on Friday, May 29, 2020. The event will include an opportunity for graduates to be recognized while still ensuring necessary social distancing measures. Students will participate as passengers in their vehicles and will begin the procession at Mount Elden Middle School at their respective school times. The students will drive south on Fourth Street where they will meet their school administrator who will provide their honors then turn around and return back up Fourth Street to Linda Vista Drive where the procession will disperse.
Globe Unified School District: The district is hoping to hold an in-person Globe High School graduation celebration, tentatively scheduled for June 25, 2020. They will be producing a local graduation tribute magazine for seniors with academic, sports, and other award winnings memorialized. They are also planning a “Social Distance Grad Walk” for May 21, 2020, which would have been graduation day. The district ordered 24” X 14” lawn signs with a picture of a each senior on them. which will be placed around the inside of the track at the football field. Students and their immediate family are invited to come walk the track and see all of the pictures of their classmates at a specified time to limit attendance. At the end of the day, students can come back if they choose to take home their own sign to be placed at their home.
High Schools: Districts across the state are recognizing the #AZClassOf2020 graduates by lighting up their football stadiums at 20:20 (8:20 p.m.) for 20 minutes and 20 seconds on designated nights.
Holbrook Unified School District: Hosting “Sending Seniors out with a Bang!” througout the month of May. Each Friday night May 1, 8 and 15, the district is hosting a Facebook Live presentation beginning a 6:45 pm. The presentation will include a senior slide show, guest speakers, senior shout outs and a short fireworks display. They are asking seniors, teachers and family members to send a 10 to 20 second video shoutouts to air during the Senior Celebration.
Humboldt Unified School District: On Wednesday, May 20, 2020, at 9:00 a.m., Coyote Springs Elementary School is celebrating the Kindergarten and 6th Grade promotion, drive through style! Everyone is invited to line the parade route to cheer on the children as they are promoted from Kindergarten and 6th Grade. The community can help by cheering on the students in the parade by making signs, or any creative way to celebrate their success! Click here for the Coyote Springs Elementary Kindergarten and Sixth Grade Promotion Parade Route.
Littleton Elementary School District: On May 21, they are hosting a “Tunnel of Hope” drive through promotion ceremony from 9-9:40 a.m. All 8th graders received a yard sign indicating they are a graduate and each graduate is getting a thumb drive with a promotion video and highlights of this past year.
Mingus Union High School: Yard signs for graduates placed by MUHS staff. Be the Light movement with stadium lights on every Friday at 8:20 p.m. for 20 minutes. All seniors will get a senior t-shirt from the student council. The local newspaper is featuring graduates. “Celebrate MUHS Senior Class” radio spots running daily on KPPV, JACK FM and JUAN FM. The district has solicited senior photos and will be posting to Facebook and Instagram over the next few weeks. They are also working with a sports production company to create a commencement video to capture the spirit of the school and graduating class. It will premiere online at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 22.
Queen Creek Unified School District will be spotlighting all of their 500+ graduating seniors individually on it’s Facebook page. They also had teachers drop off yard signs for seniors in their district to surprise and celebrate them.
Parker High School: In place of the traditional graduation ceremony, they are hosting a car parade on May 21 throughout the town and some areas on the Colorado River Indian Reservation.
Payson Unified School District: The district is asking their seniors to create 6-second video clips of themselves and to send it in. The school will edit all the videos together and post them as part of their virtual graduation.
Prescott Unified School District: Prescott High School’s Class of 2020 Graduation ceremony has recently been rescheduled for August 8, 2020 at Ruth Street Theatre. Other ways that the seniors are being celebrated and recognized in Prescott, include:
- The PHS football field lights are turned on every night at military time 20:20 for 20 minutes until May 22.
- On May 22 (graduation day), PUSD will share a celebration video highlighting messages from students, parents, family members, teachers, community members, and administrators.
- Banners are hung up around town to acknowledge our graduates.
- “2020 Strong” Yard signs, donated by Danielle Rickert at Sir Speedy and the PUSD Education Foundation, were given to every Senior
- Facebook “Adopt a Senior” Program
- Seniors will be highlighted on Facebook for their accomplishments at PHS and future plans
- PHS Seniors have been awarded $7.3 million in scholarships!
The Prescott Unified School District Education Foundation also hung a Class of 2020 banner on the fence at the high school with every graduates name. They are encouraging seniors to find their name on the banner so they can sign it and take photos.
Round Valley Unified School District: Hosting a drive through high school graduation on May 20 at 7 p.m. They will broadcast the ceremony on their Facebook page and via local radio. Seniors are encouraged to call into the radio station to record their graduation announcement to be broadcast on all the local stations.
Sedona Red Rock High School: With just 68 seniors, the school was able to make special arrangements in order to give them a graduation ceremony somewhere between real and virtual. They will decorate the Sedona Performing Arts Center just like a normal graduation and have students walk across the stage and behind them on the big screen will be their name and their specific recognitions. To ensure safe distancing, the graduates scheduled times between May 1 and 11 to come in one at a time to be recorded walking across the stage and receive their diplomas.Thanks to a donation from the Sedona Community Foundation, the school was able to hire a videographer. The individual clips of the seniors will be spliced together to create what looks like a cohesive virtual graduation, which will then be streamed online for seniors and their families to watch together on Wednesday, May 20.
Snowflake Unified School District: hosting a virtual graduation ceremony that they’ll be sharing on their YouTube channel on May 22 at 8 p.m. Students are being asked to come in over the next few weeks to film.
Winslow High School: They are cautiously optimistic that commencement will be held on August 1, 2020. They are also distributing caps and gowns to graduates and recognizing them with banners and signs.
Yard Signs: Many high schools have yard signs available for families of seniors to display at home. They have been spotted in Gilbert, New River, Anthem and hopefully will start popping up all over the state.
‘Adopt-A-Senior’ Facebook groups: Participate in or create a Facebook group to pair up community members with the class of 2020 seniors to send them encouraging notes and care packages. Several national groups exist as well as ones that focus on a specific neighborhood or school.
Sunnyslope Mural: Students are painting a mural dedicated to fellow Sunnyslope High School seniors. The mural is meant to pay tribute to the class of 2020 and is being led by a local artist, Ray Rivas. It was crowdfunded by a neighborhood association.
Arizona Department of Transportation: Shared a special message to graduates on the ADOT highway signs across the state on May 20.
Town of Coolidge: The Parks and Rec department will be hanging up banners of photos of graduates on light poles throughout town. They are lighting up the town’s water tower every Wednesday in blue and white (the school colors of Imagine Prep) until May 20 and every Thursday in blue and red (the school colors of Coolidge High School) until May 21.
Bashas’ Supermarkets: Bashas’ Family of Stores (Bashas’, Food City, AJs Finde Foods) is offering graduates a chance to win $150 for a catered dinner and cake for posting a photo along with #AZDinnerForGrad. Winners are being selected on May 20.
Brooke Photography: Based in Prescott, this local photographer is hosing a graduate portrait marathon at Granite Reef Park on May 21. The sessions are offered free of charge to any Class of 2020 graduates who would like professional photos of them in their caps and gowns.
Bisbee High School seniors will receive a free four-course dinner they can enjoy with their parents courtesy of Café Roka and the Bisbee Foundation. The restaurant is partnering with the Foundation to provide up to three meals per senior for pickup on Sunday, May 3. When seniors arrive via car for their dinner pick up, they will be greeted by festive decorations on the front of the restaurant, music by a few members of the high school band, and a wood ‘cutout’ of cap and gown where they can hop out of the car get a photo shot (sanitized between photos). They pick up their dinner and maybe even a rose with their order and be on their way.
International Minute Press (IMP) in Flagstaff: This local printer is helping families and neighbors celebrate by making custom signs to celebrate graduates all over the city. They run about $15 each and can be designed with a specific graduate or teacher name, message and school colors. For those who order signs, IMP offers curbside pick-up or free deliveries in Flagstaff city limits.
Sir Speedy Print, Signs, Marketing in Prescott donated yard signs for EVERY senior graduating from Prescott High School! Over 300 signs for the class of 2020.
T-Mobile and Jobs for America’s Graduates: With the unprecedented circumstances facing this year’s class, T-Mobile wanted to give everyone the opportunity to celebrate 2020 grads in a way that’s unlike any other. So, they’re reinventing the traditional graduation cap toss with a TikTok challenge! For every #TossYourCap video, T-Mobile will donate to Jobs for America’s Graduates (up to $200,000) in support of this year’s grads. By participating in this challenge, you’ll help celebrate students by not only giving them a cap toss they’ll never forget, but also by helping drive donations.
How to participate in the #TossYourCap Challenge
- Open TikTok and head to the Discover page
- Click into the T-Mobile hashtag challenge or search for #TossYourCap
- Find the challenge song “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled , click “Use this sound” and get your cap ready!
During the Lyrics: “Whenever me and Khaled do the remix”
Do something creative with the hat – an interesting flip, twist of the tassel – and put it on your head
During the Lyrics: “Everybody’s hands go UP”
Toss your cap out of frame and freeze
During Lyrics: “And they stay there, and they say yeah, and they stay there. Up down, up down. Coz all I do is win, win”
Do your signature dance to the music
- Share the video on TikTok with #TossYourCap and @TMobile, @jag_national and @jag_az
- Invite your friends to join the challenge next!
Know of another local business that is helping celebrate graduates? Let us know so we can add them here!