Teen’s COVID graduation plight goes viral
The student leading the charge to have her school reconsider its decision not to allow parents attend this year's Year 12 graduation ceremony says her family was "devastated" when they were told they were not allowed to attend the event.
Emily Lennon started a petition on November 3, in response to a letter sent to North Lakes State College Year 12 families informing them parents would need to watch via live streaming as their child graduated school, as they could not attend in person.
"I honestly started crying," Emily said.
"The school has tried everything they can (to support students during COVID-19), and to hear the school wasn't going to put the effort into graduation was really disheartening.
"Having my parents there meanss everything to me.
"(Our parents) have gone through 13 years of school with us.
"They deserve to be at the graduation as much as we do.
"I got to go to my sister's graduation and I've never been more proud of her in my life.
"To think that parents and siblings can't go is really disheartening."
Emily's mother Debbie said for parents, seeing their child take their "final walk" was a hugely important milestone.
"It's emotional, of course," she said.
"Being a parent, to have your child succeed... there's nothing better than to see that.
"Our children are everything to us.
"It's pride - to be proud of your child is a wonderful feeling.
"It's (also) like a thank you to us (parents), that we did a good job... it's like a recognition of our parenting."
She said finding out she could not be there to support her daughter in person was saddening.
"I was devastated, I was sad, I was angry."
But she said her daughter's "mature" and "calm" approach to trying to change plans was impressive.
"I couldn't be more proud of her, the way she has handled this."
At a time when Emily would otherwise be preparing for her Year 12 formal, on November 17, the aspiring lawyer with an unsurprising interest in human rights is leading more than 2000 people as they call on the school to change their event so that parents can be there.
She said the campaign grew legs fast when social media posts were cascaded by friends started sharing the petition link via Instagram, Snap Chat and Facebook.
Emily said she has now been contacted by a list of students in the 250-strong year level - some of whom she's never spoken to - to thank her and offer solutions she could present to the school.
"I have had an overwhelming amount of support," she said.
"I read the comments and people in Victoria have been sharing it."
A department of education spokesperson confirmed it was aware of the decision "made by the North Lakes State College to live stream the Year 12 graduation to allow parents the opportunity to view the event".
"Due to the size of the 2020 Year 12 student cohort of over 250 students, plus an estimated 500 expected guests, any onsite ceremony on College premises including parents would not achievably meet safe operational guidelines in keeping with the Chief Health Officer's requirements," they said.
"Alternatively, there were no easily accessible local venues available in the community.
"The school is communicating directly with students and parents regarding the steps for
parents to access the online streaming."
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Originally published as Teen's Covid graduation plight goes viral