Graduates from Florida International University's 2020 class weren't able to have the traditional ceremony with the pomp and circumstance the class of 2021 will have in the coming weeks after a global COVID pandemic closed all indoor events and forced the grads to wait.
Tuesday, FIU held an event to honor those grads and begin ceremonies for the next class of graduates.
"It's just like finally, finally that I can finally do this," said Ana Garcia, one of the 2020 graduates who took part in the event on the school's Southwest Miami-Dade campus.
Restrictions were in place to allow the graduates to have the ceremony they missed one year ago. Social distancing guidelines and mask wearing rules were followed as graduates walked across the outdoor stage.
"I’m so happy to have because so many students didn’t have this opportunity, so just having something small to do with my family is amazing," said Ashley Nunez, a 2020 graduate.
Some members of the 2021 class joined in the event along with FIU President Mark Rosenberg and the school's mascot, Roary the Panther.
"The reality is, they’ve come through a lot. With the pandemic nobody has ever been through this before," Rosenberg said. "Our students they stayed in classes, they took care of their families. They kept their jobs and now they’re graduating. We have to celebrate that."
The school will hold a formal ceremony this weekend for 6,000 graduates in the class of 2021 with 6,000 graduating in August.
For Nunez, the day was extra special since her mother - also a FIU graduate - wasn't able to have a graduation ceremony either.
"For her, seeing me do this is a really big deal," she said.