JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — Saturday was a day that many students across the country have been waiting for their entire lives — graduation day. With COVID-19 restrictions, though, this year’s ceremony wasn’t quite the same.
East Tennessee State University students celebrated their 2020 commencement ceremony in a way no past students have ever experienced.
ETSU’s 2020 spring semester graduates expected to graduate at the Mini Dome and walk across the stage, but instead they had to graduate from home.
“I chose ETSU because I really liked the area,” said Braden Fisher, who graduated with a degree in accounting. “It seemed like a good school, and my sister went here.”
His mother Susie Fisher said that graduating college has always been an aspiration of Braden’s for as long as she could remember.
“Braden never looked at school as graduating high school and just being done,” said Susie. “It was always, ‘when I get through college,’ so he was dead-set on coming here [ETSU].”
When he began his college journey, he looked forward to the everyday stage walk and commencement ceremony that so many past students hold dear in their own memories.
The novel coronavirus pandemic, however, shifted Braden’s entire last semester as a college student.
“The last semester has been hectic,” said Braden. “The whole shift to online classes from the Coronavirus pandemic.”
COVID-19 not only changed his on-campus college experience, but it changed his graduation as well.
In his apartment with his parents, Braden watched his graduation ceremony from his couch.
“Even though we couldn’t be there to watch him walk across the stage, we wanted to be with him as he watched the program that he is offered for graduation,” Susie said. “It’s not going to be the same, but at least it will be a memorable experience.”
For both of his parents, this is not just a degree. According to Braden’s parents, he earned a degree neither of them did, which made them even prouder.
“Neither one of us graduated college,” said Braden’s dad, Richard Fisher.
As Braden Fisher’s name was called and his picture placed upon the screen, his parents and Braden yelled in excitement.
“That’s me!” exclaimed Braden. “I did it!”
The entire Spring 2020 class at ETSU will be able to walk across the stage in December’s commencement ceremony if they’d like to.
Braden is currently studding for his CPA test and is excited to find a job in his field of study.