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Immaculate Heart High School held a virtual celebration for its class of 2020 that aired June 3 and was viewed by students, families and members of the campus community on the school’s YouTube channel.
The graduates received special surprise messages from U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); model, television personality and businesswoman Tyra Banks, class of 1991; and the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, a member of the Immaculate Heart High School class of 1999. The guest speakers offered inspiring remarks for graduates amid uncertain times.
Immaculate Heart students engaged in home-based learning programs organized by the school this spring due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. A planned in-person graduation ceremony held annually at the Hollywood Bowl was canceled because the venue remains closed, but school administrators arranged the virtual ceremony, which aired on the same date as the planned in-person ceremony. The virtual presentation was intended only for the Immaculate Heart community, and a link was sent to families shortly before the 8 p.m. ceremony. The video was promptly removed from YouTube after it ended.
The graduates were particularly inspired by the video message from the Duchess of Sussex, which addressed the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I am very proud of Meghan for knowing that the worst thing to do is be silent,” said graduating senior and outgoing student body president Maya Al-Mansour Matthews.
“I cannot fully express the joy of hearing her wholeheartedly state that black lives matter, that we as young people in this world are already on our way to making change. I am very honored that such wisdom was addressed to my classmates.”
“While watching Meghan Markle’s speech, I did tear up a bit because of how empowering her words were,” graduating senior Keana Rose Hilario said. “I understood that her comments about Black Lives Matter were very close to her heart, especially as a black woman who has been fighting against injustice at a young age. I have always been inspired by her legacy as a humanitarian fighting for numerous issues from gender inequality to education. Additionally, to know that her activism stems from her education at Immaculate Heart is even more so empowering. I am proud to call her my Panda sister.”
“In a time of extreme pain, righteous indignation and chaos, Meghan Markle’s words brought me a moment of clarity and peace,” graduating senior Audrey Andy Valcourt added. “The only wrong thing to say is to say nothing. Black lives matter, they have always mattered, and it is our, the class of 2020’s responsibility to use our voices to bring about justice in the world we are stepping out into.”
Each of the 118 graduating seniors received a diploma during the final weekend of May, when they arrived on campus during different time slots and were filmed receiving accolades in front of loved ones. Each student walked down the school’s hillside garden pathway, paused at the top of a stairwell while their name was announced and descended the stairs to a table where their diploma was waiting. Immaculate Heart President Maureen Diekmann and Immaculate Heart High School Principal Naemah Morris greeted each graduate. Social distancing was maintained and students wore face masks. Each graduate departed with a congratulatory yard sign and a gift bag that included letters of encouragement from faculty and staff.
The diploma distribution was filmed by professional filmmaker Patrick Creadon, father of graduating senior Fiona Creadon. The video footage was compiled with the recorded speeches by the commencement speaker, retired Immaculate Heart theology teacher Christine Knudsen, and the 2020 class speaker, Lola Dutcher.
A similar diploma distribution was filmed on June 4-5 for students graduating the eighth grade at Immaculate Heart Middle School. Speeches by students and an address by Immaculate Heart Middle School Principal Gina Finer will be included in a final video link for students to view at a later date.
Since 1906, Immaculate Heart High School and Middle School has educated young women in grades 6-12 on its campus at 5515 Franklin Ave. For information, visit immaculateheart.org.
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