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PHOTOS: Following 2020’s Float-ing Graduation, Seniors Celebrate Together

After documenting the Manhattan Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management’s door-to-door graduation in 2020, THE CITY returned this year to see the high school’s  in-person, yet still socially distanced, revelry.

Byri-zyashyia Smith kisses her sister, Byri-vanni, after the younger sibling graduated from the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management in the Lower East Side on Thursday, June 24, 2021.
Byri-zyashyia Smith kisses her sister, Byri-vanni, after the younger sibling graduated from the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management in the Lower East Side on Thursday.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

High school senior Byri-vanni Smith was forced to miss long stretches of classes after twice falling ill from COVID.

On Thursday, she joined more than 50 of her fellow Manhattan Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management classmates on a sunny day in Murry Bergtraum Park to graduate together after a year of academic and social isolation.

“I took the time off for myself, because being in the room alone, quarantining by myself, mentally that’s hard. It’s a lot,” Smith, who plans to study nursing, told THE CITY after receiving her diploma.

“I cried [today]. I’m just really sad we all are going to separate from each other, but it’s for the best.”

After documenting the school’s door-to-door graduation in 2020, THE CITY returned this year to see Manhattan Urban Assembly’s in-person — yet still socially distanced — celebration of a major milestone.


Here are some images from Thursday’s day of celebration and remembrance of a trying time.

Relatives embrace before a graduation ceremony for seniors at the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management in the Lower East Side on Thursday, June 24, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Classmates and family members embraced before the ceremony.


Seniors had to take safety measures before graduating from the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management in the Lower East Side on Thursday, June 24, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Even with relaxed social distancing rules, the staff still took safety precautions that included forehead temperature checks.


Seniors celebrated their education in saving lives before graduating from the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management in the Lower East Side on Thursday, June 24, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Seniors decorated their hats, with one honoring the emergency medical training they received.


Seniors took their last walk as students before graduating from the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management in the Lower East Side on Thursday, June 24, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Students in their final single-file line as high schoolers.


A graduation present got a front row seat during the ceremony for students at the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management in the Lower East Side on Thursday, June 24, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A graduation present got a front row seat.


Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management Valedictorian Nawin Bravo plans to become a pilot for JetBlue, June 24, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Valedictorian Nawin Bravo wants to become a pilot for JetBlue.


Families celebrated while seniors received awards during a graduation ceremony for the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management in the Lower East Side on Thursday, June 24, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Families celebrated while seniors received academic awards.


Students had to remain socially distanced during the graduation ceremony for for students at the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management in the Lower East Side on Thursday, June 24, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Students and their families had to remain socially distanced during the ceremony.


Students and family celebrate after a graduation ceremony for the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management in the Lower East Side on Thursday, June 24, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

But after receiving their diplomas everyone came together.


Senior Jose Ramos embraces his family after graduating from the Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management in the Lower East Side on Thursday, June 24, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

“I feel like this is a better memoir of what happened throughout your life,” said Jose Ramos about being able to have an in-person ceremony.

“Instead of just having a picture or just electronic evidence of having it, it’s better to have a physical copy of it.”


Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management held a graduation ceremony in the Lower East Side’s Murry Bergtraum Park on Thursday, June 24, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

While they’ll never forget going through high school during a pandemic, students said they were ready for their next chapter.

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