Mayor Lori Lightfoot got her dancing shoes on Thursday morning to announce Chicago’s first-ever, virtual citywide high school commencement celebration hosted by Oprah Winfrey.
With Chicago Public Schools closed for in-person classes through the end of the school year, the city’s 25,000 public high school seniors — and thousands more at private schools — are missing out on rite of passage events like prom and graduation.
So Lightfoot partnered with Citadel, the financial services company owned by billionaire Ken Griffin, to put on a party for all those 12th graders at public, charter and all private schools across the city.
“We are thrilled and honored to have the one-and-only Oprah Winfrey joining us for this incredible moment with Chicago’s high school seniors,” Lightfoot said in a news release. “While we can’t recreate these in-person memories, I feel strongly that we need to recognize and celebrate the achievements of our many high school seniors in Chicago.
“The times we are living in are historic and stunning, forcing us all to take a deep look at who we are as a people and our place in the world,” the mayor said. “No one knows this better than Oprah, and I join all of Chicago in looking forward to hearing the wisdom she’ll be sharing with our incredible young people as they take this unforgettable next step on their life’s journey.”
Lightfoot teased the announcement in her first-ever TikTok video, dancing to K CAMP’s “Lottery” and wearing shoes with “Madam Mayor” on the back. She first appears dancing while wearing a button-down shirt and jeans — but later is shown in a graduation cap, and then a full gown.
The virtual graduation is set to take place in mid-June, though an exact date and details are still being worked out. The ceremony will include speeches, performances and feature student achievements, the mayor’s office said.
“The meaning of graduation is more profound than a physical stage and nothing can detract from the beaming pride of a Chicago Public Schools parent when their student earns a diploma,” schools chief Janice Jackson said in a statement. “We know we can’t fully replace the special milestones lost during this unprecedented crisis, but our seniors deserve to be celebrated for their hard work and we look forward to coming together to honor our seniors during this special occasion.”