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Chicago’s virtual graduation for high school seniors will be June 14: Here’s what to expect

Oprah Winfrey will be the commencement speaker for a special online event to celebrate the city’s graduating high school seniors.

Oprah Winfrey speaking at tour event in New York on Feb. 8, 2020.
Brad Barket/Invision/AP, File

Chicago’s virtual graduation to send off the city’s high school seniors amid the coronavirus pandemic will be held Sunday, June 14 at 1 p.m., with Oprah Winfrey set to make the commencement address.

“Graduation 2020: For Chicago. By Chicago,” an effort between the city and hedge fund business Citadel, will be hosted by Mayor Lori Lightfoot with Chicago native and “Hamilton” star Miguel Cervantes as the ceremony’s emcee. It will stream live on the city’s website and various social media channels in addition to television coverage from networks including ABC7 and Univision.

“While Chicago’s 2020 graduating class cannot walk across their school’s stage to get their diplomas, we are asking them to don their caps and gowns on June 14 as the entire city celebrates this unforgettable milestone together,” the mayor said in a statement.

Chicago students have been remote learning since officials closed the schools in March to limit spread of the coronavirus. Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced in mid-April that they would not reopen for the remainder of the school year. Not long afterwards, Lightfoot danced her way onto TikTok to announce that Oprah would be the commencement speaker for an online ceremony to replace the area’s canceled graduation events.

“Our graduating seniors have displayed incredible persistence over the past few months and deserve this one-of-a-kind celebration to honor their accomplishments,” Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson said in a statement.

Graduating seniors can submit a video of themselves walking in their cap and gown for a chance to be featured in a citywide virtual “Grad Walk.” Other student-centric programming will include spoken word performance by Kenwood High School students, a Class of 2020 poem written and read by ChiArts participants, and a performance by the Dunbar Vocational Career Academy drumline.

Several high schools have announced their own plans to hold virtual commencement ceremonies, and last week, CPS said drive-through graduation ceremonies would also be permitted.

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