| The Courier
Lucia Leyna didn’t think wearing a mask and taking her temperature would be part of her graduation ceremony when she began studying at Nicholls State University.
But the coronavirus had other plans.
“I never imagined my last year to be like this, especially during my graduation,” the history major from Houma said. “We can’t touch each other so the hugs will be missing. But the sentiment is still there.”
Leyna was one of about 600 Nicholls students who took part in a socially distanced fall graduation over the weekend at John L. Guidry Stadium.
To help with social distancing, the university’s 107th commencement was split into five ceremonies over the weekend. Face coverings and temperature checks were required to get inside the stadium.
Though Saturday morning’s ceremony wasn’t how she envisioned it, Leyna said she was excited to begin a new chapter and plans to teach history overseas.
“There was a lack of sleep, but I learned so much and made a lot of friends,” she said. “I’m glad it’s finally finished. I have big plans for the future, but this will always be my home school. You can’t take my smile off even though you can’t see it.”
Fellow history major Kelsey Gros said she was relieved to have a graduation ceremony because the virus had canceled so many other events this year.
“I’m thankful we made it through and that we were able to be here and actually have a ceremony today,” the Napoleonville resident said. “Those things were canceled in the spring. I don’t think anyone expected things to be this way but we’ve got to roll with it and do what we need to do to get to the end. I’m going to miss the support here. The staff is very supporting in helping us reach our goals and always have our backs.”
English and creative writing graduate Jasmine Bell said the pandemic didn’t affect her as much because she already took classes online.
“I was a transfer student and I went strictly online,” said Bell, who is from Baton Rouge. “I always tell people I never felt I was an online student. We were always included from the beginning. I wasn’t particularly affected by the pandemic because I was 100% online. But I feel like the university upped the ante when the pandemic started and there was a lot more communication about what was going on.”
Bell said she plans to go back to school and further her studies.
In her commencement address, Maj. Renee Brinkley, of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, told graduates the difficulties they’ve encountered this year will prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead.
“When I think about where we are today, the season that we’re living in, the time that we are living in, you have really amazed me because you have already shown the ability to overcome, to achieve and obtain the goals that you set your mind on,” said Brinkley, who serves as executive director of the Sheriff’s Office’s crime prevention program.
As the graduates prepare to embark in a world filled with difficult challenges and uncertainties, Brinkley said they may encounter many obstacles along the way, but they must never be defeated.
“In fact, it may be necessary to encounter defeats so you know who you are, what you can rise from and how you can still come out of it,” she said.
— Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.