Chicago's graduating high school seniors will still be recognized this summer with a virtual celebration in mid-June, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday, and a commencement address from Oprah Winfrey.
The city's first-ever, virtual citywide commencement will acknowledge the students' accomplishments, Lightfoot said, even though the coronavirus pandemic will keep them from getting their diploma in person on stage.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every Chicagoan over the last few months, from lives lost to livelihoods severely impacted to planned experiences that had to be cancelled and that cannot be replaced,” said Lightfoot in a statement. "While we can't recreate these in-person memories, I feel strongly that we need to recognize and celebrate the achievements of our many high school seniors in Chicago.”
While the exact date is still in the works, the commencement will celebrate every high school senior in Chicago, including those from Chicago Public Schools, charter schools, Catholic schools and private schools, Lightfoot said. It also will include speeches, performances and elements featuring student achievements and experiences.
"The meaning of graduation is more profound than a physical stage and nothing can detract from the beaming pride of a Chicago Public Schools parent when their student earns a diploma," said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson in a statement. "We know we can't fully replace the special milestones lost during this unprecedented crisis, but our seniors deserve to be celebrated for their hard work and we look forward to coming together to honor our seniors during this special occasion."
Other details are being worked out through a group of representatives from various Chicago schools. While the ceremony will celebrate high school seniors, every Chicagoan is invited to participate.
“We are thrilled and honored to have the one-and-only Oprah Winfrey joining us for this incredible moment with Chicago’s high school seniors,” said Lightfoot in a statement. “The times we are living in are historic and stunning, forcing us all to take a deep look at who we are as a people and our place in the world. No one knows this better than Oprah, and I join all of Chicago in looking forward to hearing the wisdom she’ll be sharing with our incredible young people as they take this unforgettable next step on their life’s journey.”