TORONTO -- After months of remote learning due to COVID-19 the school year officially comes to end this week, but for many students there will be no graduation or prom to celebrate the milestone.

“Prom would have been tomorrow and commencement the day after, so there is really no sense of closure in a way,” said Nelson Lee, who is graduating from Marc Garneau Collegiate .

Nelson is the student council president at his Toronto high school and had been planning the end-of-year celebrations long before the pandemic.

“It doesn’t feel as fulfilling,” he said about missing out on so many school events, graduation and other extracurricular opportunities.

He has been accepted to the University of Toronto’s Engineering program. He’s excited about the next chapter, but acknowledges it won’t be normal. 

“The university has sent out a lot of information about they will proceed in September, for the larger classes they will be online and smaller seminars will be in person,” he said. “I think it’s a great combination for the best of both worlds at this time.”

In the meantime, with limited options due to the pandemic, he’s taking courses offered by UofT to prepare him for his first semester. 

“Just to keep myself engage and push myself to learn new things during this time.”

Students organize virtual prom 

Zaiboon Azhar wanted to make sure her classmates had the opportunity to celebrate their achievement. The Woburn Collegiate graduate was part of a national committee that organized a virtual prom with an open invitation to every high school student across Canada. 

“The idea was to give the class of 2020 some sort of prom, graduation experience because it is difficult being all alone at home for months without access to your friends - we wanted to make these seniors feel special,” Azhar said. 

virtual prom

The online event called ‘Prom is On’ was held in May and raised more than $150,000 for Kids Help Phone. 

Azhar will attend the University of Toronto in the fall to study international relations. 

Schools honour students with virtual graduation

Some schools are hosting virtual graduation ceremonies to celebrate their students achievements. 

Bayview Middle School is hoisting a virtual graduation Tuesday evening, giving staff and students one last opportunity to connect.

“It means a lot to me because I will see my teachers talk one last time, just knowing I’m going to be present there with all my classmates and peers,” Grade 8 student Nadine Al-Junaidi said. 

Nadine’s classmate Pradyumn Jha is equally excited about the opportunity to see friends one last time before going their separate ways to different high schools. 

“For the past three years I’ve been thinking about this moment and having it virtual is showing how in these unprecedented times we’re being innovative and its better than no graduation,” Pradyumn said. “I’m looking forward to the new experiences and meeting new people, the new environment.” 

Transitioning to high school can be anxious and exciting for students under normal circumstance. However, with the province recently announcing measures for the school year that include smaller class sizes and remote learning at home, these students don’t know what to expect. 

“I’m a little bit nervous about what grade nine will hold and we still might be doing online learning, so I will have to see how it will go,” Nadine said. “It’s not how I hope to start high school career.”

If anything, these graduates say the pandemic has taught them to persevere. 

“We need to do our best, we need to support each other,” Pradyumn said.