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June 28, 2020

The pandemic has put most graduation ceremonies on hold, but the staff at the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management was determined to find a way for their students to walk across a commencement stage.

"We really were like, ‘How can we have our students be able to do the walk that our students dream of when they enter into school?’ And so we had a teacher say, you know, I can build a float," Co-Principal Taina Torres said.

So the school brought the stage to the students, by hitching one to the back of an SUV and driving it to their doors. Senior Samantha Haynes got a chance to walk across it as Pomp and Circumstance played.

"I thank them for it and I appreciate them for it and it makes me know that they love me and they care for me so much," Samantha said.

School officials say they felt that providing a graduation experience was particularly important for their students. The school has an emergency medical technician program in partnership with the Borough of Manhattan Community College that trains students to become EMTs.

"When coronavirus happened, it became even more relevant for them to be celebrated,” said Co-Principal Robert Magliaro. “They actually didn’t even miss a day of class in the shutdown with our partners at BMCC. So we felt like if they're getting ready to go out into the field and contribute in such big ways at such a big time that they deserve to have something like this.”

Samantha plans to find a nursing internship before heading to college, and says her graduating class rose above the challenges thrown their way this year.

"We did a lot. We pushed through everything and we still maintained a headstrong mindset after all of this," she said.

While she did not graduate in front of a crowd, she did get plenty of support from passing drivers, who cheered along and honked their horns in support.

"That’s how it’s been pretty much across the board, people are really excited," Magliaro said.

And of course, their teachers are excited, too.

"Oh my gosh, I want to hug them and I can’t,” said Torres said. “They come out of their homes with their families and they're like, the natural instinct is to go hug them and they can’t, but the next best thing is to see them get their diplomas.”



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