By Collin Breaux | Email: cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Customarily, graduating seniors get to walk across the stage to receive diplomas with the rest of their classmates.

The COVID-19 health crisis put a stop to that for the Capistrano Valley Christian Schools’ (CVCS) Class of 2020—so the school instead brought the graduation to their homes.

Capistrano Valley Christian Schools graduates and twin sisters Alyssa and Mikaela Arnone enjoyed a graduation ceremony at home. Traditional graduation ceremonies have been upended by the COVID-19 health crisis. Photo: Collin Breaux

School officials drove to student homes on Friday, May 29, for personal ceremonies. Faculty and staff stood in front lawns to celebrate the graduates and hand over diplomas, while students were surrounded by family and friends.

Two of those students were twin sisters Mikaela and Alyssa Arnone, who live in San Clemente.

“It’s been unusual, and I’m happy we’re able to do something,” said Alyssa, 17, on the unique school year. “It was hard to get through this time and not know what was going to happen.”

This school year has been an unusual one for the Class of 2020. Photo: Collin Breaux

Alyssa said it was nice to finally have some sort of graduation ceremony after the 2020 pandemic had upended school and daily life. Alyssa said she and her other classmates had been waiting for graduation to mark the next chapter in their lives.

“(The final school year) has been interesting,” Alyssa said. “It was hard to get through once we hit March and quarantine happened. Sports had to end, but it was OK.”

As with other schools throughout South Orange County and elsewhere, CVCS students have been taking part in online learning while campuses are closed. Alyssa said it was normal since they already do a lot of education online.

Alyssa and Mikaela Arnone were surrounded by family and friends during a personal graduation ceremony on Friday, May 29. Photo: Collin Breaux

Mikaela also was excited about the ceremony, saying it was nice to finally graduate and be done with the school year.

“It’s nice, a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mikaela. “(The school year) was absolutely chaotic, but we made it in the end. I’m glad to be here.”

Mikaela also said she got through online education. She has kept in touch with her friends during the pandemic, and they celebrated with her during the home graduation.

Mikaela is planning to attend San Diego State University, while Alyssa is looking at California Baptist University in Riverside.

Their father, Tony, called the graduation a unique event and said the pandemic was “a difficult situation and a difficult time that we’re in right now.”

“Sometimes, this is the best that we can do, and hopefully we tried to create something memorable for them today,” Tony said. “The only piece that we can’t adjust is they wanted to have their graduating class members with them. That’s the part that they probably lament the most. They really wish they could have all of them here.”

Tony said he didn’t know if the moment had fully hit him yet. His daughters are very accomplished, with honors recognitions and a choice in universities after being accepted to multiple schools.

“As parents, my wife and I are extremely proud of the young ladies that they have become,” Tony said. “The graduation part of it is difficult, because it seems like five minutes ago, we carried around two carriers. They grow up very fast. I’m exceptionally happy that a lot of their friends were able to show up, given the circumstances.”

The unusual ceremony follows other unique changes implemented for graduation ceremonies this year. JSerra Catholic High School had a drive-in graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 30, and a drive-up Senior Swag Day event on Wednesday, May 27. A car parade is scheduled Thursday, June 4, in downtown San Juan Capistrano to celebrate graduating students.

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