June 26, 2020
Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management faculty met under the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge early Thursday. Their mission: to finish decorating a float before setting out on a mobile graduation ceremony for 57 students across the city.
The coronavirus pandemic scuttled in-person graduation festivities at schools across the city. The Urban Assembly team was determined to mark the day in a big — and safe — way.
We rode along to capture scenes of a graduation celebration in a year like no other.
Principal Rob Magliaro and co-principal Taina Torres led some staff in setting up the float in the parking lot of the Murry Bergtraum softball field in Lower Manhattan. Magliaro said it took him and teacher Sal Puglisi about 20 hours to organize a route, design a float and distribute all the information needed to make the Thursday and Friday tours possible.
“Although we haven’t been able to be in the same physical space, we’ve gotten a lot closer through our virtual study groups, calling and FaceTiming each other,” said salutatorian Tashani Kerr.
“All parts of this were unexpected but I’m happy with how everything turned out.”
Brianny Cristostomo was embraced by her parents, Bribianny Adames, 37, and Ernesto Cristostomo, 38, after she received her diploma near their Woodhaven home.
“Today was very very emotional, but I felt grateful since I didn’t expect to have a graduation,” Brianny said.
“I was not expecting coronavirus to affect the school system so much,” Taquan Allicock said outside his Ozone Park home. “ I miss doing all the physical stuff, you know going to classes and seeing your friends in person. I miss AP English the most.”
“We all arrived together and planned on leaving together, but then out of nowhere COVID-19 comes and wipes all that away,” Pedro Figueroa said outside his East New York home.
“The best experience of high school is supposed to be graduation, it’s incredibly frustrating.”
“I don’t like attention, so you might imagine how I felt. But I wanted to see my teachers,” Christian Rodriguez said while standing next to his father in East New York.
Rodriguez plans to study at New York City College of Technology while working on his music career.
“Seeing the float made me feel like it’s the end of this chapter of my life and the start of the next,” he said.