South Bend seniors graduate despite setbacks

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - It's graduation day for South Bend students and after this rollercoaster of a year, many are thankful to be able to have one at all.

It starts with a stage, a couple of chairs, a microphone, and…. a graduate waiting for their diploma.

“It’s graduation weekend," Jim Seitz, the Principal at John Adams High School said.

A celebration of more than a decade of learning... finally accomplished.

"We will have 405 John Adams High School seniors across the stage, we’ll hand them the diplomas they have worked extremely hard for the last 4 years, quite frankly the last 13.”

For Danyelle Covington-Woods, a senior at South Bend Virtual School housed at Rise Up Academy, this moment has been a long time coming.

“I’ve been determined since I was 8,9 years old. I was always telling my family, I’m going to get my high school diploma," Covington-Woods said.

Life could’ve gotten in the way of her big plans.

“I had got pregnant with my daughter sophomore year so I had missed a lot of school," she said. "Junior year I had 12 credits and I told my counselor, give me 6 Playto classes online on top of the 7 classes and the first semester on top of finals, I busted all a’s and b’s”

And then the pandemic happened.

"The pandemic upset me because they just threw everything online for us without really good directions on what we can do next," she said. “I didn’t let it knock me off from what I was doing. Which was graduating for me and my son.”

But despite a rough school year...

"We’ve had a lot of struggles with students and making sure that they are staying on track," Seitz said. "We are going to have a couple of students who will be finished up throughout the summer and we will have them graduate in august”

At least graduation in 2021 will look more normal.

“We’ll hand out the diplomas and that’s always the best part is when that student crosses the stage and you’re able to shake their hand, this year that might be a fist bump," he said.

“I dreamed of it every day every night," Covington-Woods said. "Not only am I doing it for me and my son but I’m doing it for my family just to see a big accomplishment just knowing I have succeeded in something I have talked about for years, it makes me so happy.”

It’s been a hard year for many students so finally getting this celebration is a sigh of relief for many.

"This has been a long journey – we don’t need to tell anyone how hard it’s been for our families and our students, but it certainly is a nice way to cap off some wonderful things that we’ve accomplished," Seitz said.

And now they have to think of the next steps.

Is that college? Maybe or with the job market being so open – it could mean it’s easier for these graduates to get a job straight out of high school.

“I do want to go to college in the fall," Covington-Woods said. "College is like a big step but I’m ready. I know it’s going to be a lot of challenges but I’ve been through a lot of challenges in my life.”

This is just the beginning. Lots of schools are going to be graduating here soon. And after this year – I’m sure every student, teacher, administrator, and family at the ceremony are proud.

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