Life After 50: A Corona Graduation

LAHS graduates Mikey Aslam, Zoe Butler & Lucario Chavez headed to life beyond Los Alamos. Courtesy photo

Graduates Mikey Aslam, Zoe Butler & Lucario Chavez arrive to Pomp and Circumstance. Courtesy photo

Executive Director

Los Alamos Retirement & Senior Organization

During this pandemic, I need a constant positive, to remain hopeful.

When the Class of 2020 might not walk a stage, our neighborhood attempted a Socially Distanced Graduation Experiment.

As I am married to a retired “labby”, I knew we could ‘Do the Science’ and pull off something appropriate.

I asked the moms if they would allow a neighborhood only event. It was a go, with some secrets for the graduates so it would be a rewarding experience.

The event included minimal decorations on display, toilet paper, diploma scrolls, a podium and cones for safety borrowed from the senior center. What we would do for an actual ceremony grew over time.

I recently found a letter from a high school teacher nominating me for a college scholarship. It was the moment that allowed a low-income kid feel like they could go to college. To read the words of Lt. Colonel James O. Cranford talk about my character and ability some 30 plus years later lit a fire in me.

You see my other nonprofit had recently heralded an educator for 35 years of service to our schools, as the recipient of the Spirit of the West award. As the kids say, “Boom Baby” we had our teacher speaker! Rita Sanchez put her words on paper and we were off to a real graduation.

I had asked the kids to text me the names of their best friend, favorite elementary, middle, high school teachers and favorite or most trusted adult. The idea was to use their best friend’s words as an individual student speaker for them. Then I realized I didn’t want to sob my way through graduation. A little bird told me one of the three kids was the student speaker for what would have been the official event – we were good to go.

I wanted a way to tie in their connection to the WEB and Link Crew programs. During our training, the students ponder Words of Wisdom or advice to pass on to those younger. So, I enlisted the help of two senior citizens, one in their 80s and one in their 90s. What got them to where they are today? What advice did they have and what would they have told their 18-year-old selves?

Then, when the program is done, they received a role of paper towels, tied in a black bow, to illustrate a diploma. They also received a personal letter from the best friend, elementary, middle and high school teacher and most trusted adult, bound in an album, as a keep sake.

Life is Good my friends, even in the midst of a pandemic, when love is the anchor. There must be a crack, and we’re all a little broken, for the light to shine through into the darkness. As Mikey Aslam, Zoe Butler and Lucario Chavez know from their WEB and Link Crew trainings, “Your attitude, determines your altitude.”

Student Speaker Zoe Butler delivers a speech that is a sign of the times and glimpse to the clear future for the Class of 2020. Poster by Mykayla. Courtesy photo

Student Speaker Zoe Butler. Courtesy photo

The socially distanced families and neighbors at the graduation ceremony. Courtesy photo

The neighbors of Isleta Street in White Rock grow and graduate even during a pandemic. Courtesy photo

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