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.
- Tashani Kerr, 18, approaches the UASEM graduation float, June 25, 2020. Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY
- Brianny Cristostomo was embraced by her parents Bribianny Adames, 37, and Ernesto Cristostomo, 38, after she received her diploma. Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY
- Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management faculty and friends gathered under the Manhattan Bridge to put together a graduation float for the class of 2020. Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY
- “We all arrived together and planned on leaving together but then out of nowhere COVID-19 comes and wipes all that away,” said UASEM graduate Pedro Figueroa. Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY
- The fleet of UASEM cars make their way through Brooklyn to the first students house. Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY
- Brianny Cristostomo, 17, smiled after receiving her diploma near her Queens home. Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY
Here are some images from Thursday’s day of celebration and remembrance of a trying time.
Classmates and family members embraced before the ceremony.
Even with relaxed social distancing rules, the staff still took safety precautions that included forehead temperature checks.
Seniors decorated their hats, with one honoring the emergency medical training they received.
Students in their final single-file line as high schoolers.
A graduation present got a front row seat.
Valedictorian Nawin Bravo wants to become a pilot for JetBlue.
Families celebrated while seniors received academic awards.
Students and their families had to remain socially distanced during the ceremony.
But after receiving their diplomas everyone came together.
“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.”
While they’ll never forget going through high school during a pandemic, students said they were ready for their next chapter.