Graduation: tears, not sweat, please!



Everyone remembers their high school graduation. At Piedmont, it’s a celebration that never fails to bring the community together.

Seniors get to share hugs and tears as the sun sets on the verdant Witter field. As is tradition, they walk half a lap, heels on the track, purple gowns flowing in the breeze, the P highlighted on the turf. They meet at the other end of the field in a crowd and throw their tasseled hats in the air together, a celebration of the past four years, as the pep band plays “Pomp and circumstance” with gusto. The memory of the sun and the speeches echoing over the field lasts a lifetime.

But not for the Class of 2019. We will not have a field. We will not have a theater. And you might say it is no problem, that we can just graduate in the gym.

Not the gym. Not again.

Hot. Sweaty. Stuffy. Bad lighting and echoing noise. In case nobody remembers, this how the juniors graduated from Piedmont Middle School.

We juniors were unlucky at the end of eighth grade. It was raining, only lightly, but enough to move our graduation ceremony indoors to Binks Gym. Every shoe squeaked as we walked forward to receive our diploma, our armpits were sweaty because 700 or so people were packed shoulder to shoulder in one small gym, and the pictures came out dim because of the lighting.

Photos from graduation go on the mantel because it is a landmark achievement, a point of pride for family and friends. But not only is it bigger emotionally and academically– it is also physically bigger. The gym might not have the capacity for all of the friends, families, students, and teachers combined. The capacity of Binks is 1144 persons, so even if it did fit enough people, imagine 1144 bodies in one gym. It would be a hot, chaotic mess. To get enough seats for our audience to sit comfortably, we need to look beyond campus for a new location.

Last year, Berkeley High seniors graduated at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theater. Bishop O’Dowd seniors graduated at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Since our field is not an option, we have the opportunity to try out an off-campus graduation to make the once-in-a-lifetime ceremony truly special. Of course, we will remember it just as well if it is in the gym, but they would be memories of discomfort rather than excitement.

We don’t need Oracle Arena or AT&T Park, though that would be nice. We just need a plan.

Using the gym would have some benefits. It is easily accessible, and it would also be the cheapest option, as we would not have to rent a different venue. But we are only going to graduate from high school once, and I do not want to spend it sweating into my white dress. Graduating from the gym was not fun in middle school, but in case of emergency, we can keep the gym in our back pocket.

I am making a plea for the whole junior class, for the teachers, for the parents, for the grandparents, for the siblings. I would like to propose that PHS finds an off site place for graduation for 2019. If we are going to do this, we need to start planning in advance.

The class of 2019 is working hard, and we will not stop until we graduate. So let’s make it a worthy celebration with a new venue, one with good lighting, elbow room, and controlled temperature. If you need a student committee, I and many others would be glad to provide suggestions, because this matters to us. It is the first step towards our future, the beginning of adulthood. It is our graduation.