A New Format: Bronx Science’s 92nd Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2020

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Bronx Science’s Commencement Ceremony goes online for the first time in the school’s history.


Celeste Abourjeili

Registration for the virtual graduation ceremony takes place online, where seniors can customize a message to the class of 2020.

To watch the Class of 2020’s 92nd Bronx Science Commencement Ceremony, click on the video above. 

Due to COVID-19, high schools across the world have resorted to hosting virtual graduations online, due to social distancing restrictions in effect as a means of flattening the curve of infection. With 751 graduating seniors of the Class of 2020, Bronx Science had to make different arrangements as well for the graduation ceremony this year, moving to an online format for the first time in the school’s history. 

“We were planning to hold our traditional graduation ceremony at the United Palace Theater in Washington Heights. Since COVID-19 hit, it has become clear that we cannot safely gather over 3,000 people together in a theater, so we’ve decided to hold a virtual ceremony this year instead,” said Mr. McNickle, Senior Class Advisor, and the faculty advisor to the Bronx Science Senior Council. 

While the Alumni Foundation is planning to host an in-person prom for the class of 2020 in the fall or winter, there will be no in-person graduation ceremony. “We weren’t sure how many students would come in from college for graduation ceremony months after they had graduated from high school. Despite our best efforts, putting it online was the only answer,” said Senior Council President Shmuel Padwa ’20.

Even though this is not the graduation ceremony that they had originally expected before the Coronavirus pandemic emerged, our seniors are still excited for the online ceremony. “I’m looking forward to watching the ceremony with my parents and to celebrating my official transition from high school,” said Jacob Kerr ’20. 

This year’s graduation will be even more personal than in the past. Organizing faculty member Mr. Thorp said, “It’s a much more personalized ceremony than we could offer if it was done in person. Photos of seniors in their caps and gowns with individual senior messages, and half an hour of a montage slideshow of seniors’ photos from their past four years at Bronx Science are both new and exciting features that we’ve never been able to offer before.” 

A slideshow of senior portraits in their caps and gowns will replace the procession of graduates across the stage at the end of the ceremony. “To honor each graduate individually, we will have each graduate’s name read by an official class student reader, while a slide of their photo, name, message, and honors is displayed,” said Mr. McNickle. 

Lily O’Sullivan ’20, this year’s Salutatorian, is excited to see her slide alongside everybody else’s. “While writing my speech, I realized how special the Bronx Science community is compared to other schools,” she said. O’Sullivan will be one of six students giving a speech at this year’s graduation ceremony, along with a speech from the Keynote Speaker, Dr. Wanda Austin ’71. The other five student speakers will be NHS President Russell Ahiamadi with the Pledge of Allegiance, S.O. President Anthony Bonavita introducing the Keynote Speaker, Valedictorian Zoë Cooper, Senior Council President Shmuel Padwa with the Graduate’s Pledge, and Suzune Montag singing the National Anthem. 

Mr. Thorp laid out the agenda for the online ceremony: “It will be a beautiful virtual ceremony that follows the traditional graduation program as closely as possible. It will begin with a slideshow montage of photos of seniors over their years at Bronx Science. Then, it will have speeches from the six different VIP students and from our Keynote Speaker, Dr. Wanda Austin ’71 and Principal Donahue. The graduates’ march that follows will be a slideshow, as mentioned earlier.”

Students even had the opportunity to purchase a cap and gown, complete with a tassel, to celebrate the event, which was mailed home individually to seniors. 

Taylor Chapman ’20 gets decked out in her cap and gown to take graduation pictures. (Taylor Chapman)

Mr. McNickle believes that the biggest challenge of moving graduation online is the possibility of letting the class of 2020 down. “I know how special, how important, and how precious this ceremony is to students and their families. We just want to make sure that you get the best experience that we can possibly offer you,” he said.

The administration along with the Senior Council has been working extra hard to make this year’s graduation special. “Mr. McNickle, Ms. Cooper, Ms. Coufos and I have always worked together to plan the graduation ceremonies each year. The difference this year is that all meetings were done by Google Meets virtually rather than in person. We’ve been meeting together since March 2020 to plan this year’s virtual ceremony to make it as special and as meaningful as possible,” said Mr. Thorp.

Seniors of the class of 2020 look forward to seeing the extra work pay off on June 26, 2020 when Bronx Science’s 92nd Commencement Ceremony begins. The slideshow montage of photos of seniors from their past four years at Bronx Science begins at 11:30 a.m. and the graduation ceremony itself starts at 12 noon. “The montage in the beginning of the graduation ceremony is going to be really cute. I’m looking forward to these new ways of reminiscing,” said Senior Council member Sofia Mahairas ’20. 

Even though this is not the graduation ceremony that seniors had been planning for, all students at Bronx Science are part of a positive, loving environment, and that’s bigger than any ceremony. “You are loved, all of you,” said Mr. McNickle, “The faculty and staff of the Bronx High School of Science miss you, but we’re looking forward to celebrating remotely together on June 26, 2020.”

“While writing my speech, I realized how special the Bronx Science community is compared to other schools,” said Lily O’Sullivan ’20.