GCC plans for Class of 2020 parade, December commencement

  • Students leave Greenfield Community College’s main campus in March, not long before the school switched to remote learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2020 12:52:28 PM

GREENFIELD — As Greenfield Community College transitions to its summer session, President Yves Salomon-Fernandez said the college is committed to honoring the spring graduating class.

First, there will be a parade in honor of the Class of 2020 on June 13, at 10 a.m.

“There will be a float and we’ll be playing traditional commencement pomp and circumstance music,” Salomon-Fernandez said. “Students will also choose some of the more contemporary music that we will play. I will be dressed in regalia and wear a mask and gloves, and will have a congratulatory bag with gifts for our graduates.”

The event will be filmed as students move through the procession in their vehicles to receive their gift bags. Faculty and staff will line College Drive and the parking lots with messages and signs of congratulations and inspiration. Salomon-Fernandez said all diplomas will be mailed in the summer.

Additionally, GCC will hold a traditional commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 on Dec. 12. The 2020 graduates will also be honored alongside the Class of 2021 next year.

“We are so proud of this year’s graduating class, we will honor them multiple times,” she said.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the college moved its classes online earlier this spring, as well as the student support services like tutoring, counseling, advising, financial aid and library services.

“Clearly, the preference is to teach and learn in person, but we are all concerned about the health of our students and our employees, and of course about the public health implications,” she explained. “GCC is one of the largest employers in the county, so of course we want to make responsible decisions. Our students and employees come from all over the county. By going online, we wanted to make sure that we did our part to contain the spread in our region.”

Salomon-Fernandez said the college community proved adaptive and resilient amid the changes. To ensure students could stay engaged with their education virtually, the college bought them lab kits and software, in addition to the computers and internet hotspots offered through the school’s lending library.

“During this time of physical distancing, it was important to us as a college to remain socially connected,” Salomon-Fernandez noted. “We did that through remote all-college meetings, office hours (and) social hours.”

Students have also used Facebook groups, other social media platforms and basic technologies like their cellphones to stay connected.

“In many ways, this experience has brought us all closer together,” she said.

Since the pandemic began, the college has hosted a virtual art show, virtual experiments and virtual field trips. Salomon-Fernandez said a member of the Presidential Fellows program hosted a painting demonstration on Facebook Live, and one of the school deans has held a weekly Facebook Live music performance.

GCC plans to continue its remote learning model for the summer sessions, with one starting May 20 and another on July 13. However, Salomon-Fernandez said a few classes in the second unit, primarily in the health sciences, will incorporate a rotating on-campus schedule for select days.

“We understand the demand for health care professionals is high right now,” Salomon-Fernandez said. “This is exacerbated in our rural regions where we have a disproportionately higher percentage of older adults and a low supply of health care professionals. We want to help our students graduate and comply with accreditation standards.”

She said students and faculty will adhere to social distancing guidelines and will honor the safety mandates issued by Gov. Charlie Baker.

At this time, GCC is not planning any events on campus this summer. The Green River Festival, which is traditionally held on campus, was postponed until July 2021, organizers announced in April.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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