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UConn classes of 2020 and 2021 get their graduation ceremony, and a chance to get vaccinated

After last year's graduation was canceled due to the pandemic, ceremonies are being held this week at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Today marked the first of several in person commencement ceremonies over the next 5 days that the university of Connecticut will be holding after a year of putting them on pause.

A special moment, years in the making – and a year later than expected.

The UConn class of 2020 finally got the chance to walk across the stage and receive their diploma Saturday.

"I know we graduated last year, in truth," said graduate Michael Castanhl. "Today it’s in spirit. I couldn't be prouder myself." 

To follow COVID protocols the university split commencement ceremonies up into several events spread out over 5 days.

"Each graduate who comes to the ceremony can have 3 guests, it's a 3 guest maximum," said UConn spokesman Mike Enright. "All tickets are virtual, the program was virtual; there were no handshakes on the diploma stage."

Nevertheless, families spread out across the stadium, just as excited as the graduates that this moment was finally happening.

"Its a real testament to how much has changed in the last year, said Ryan Mcgloin. "I'm really excited to be back with my buddies and my family."

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona delivered the commencement address virtually. Cardona praised new UConn graduates for their work in helping to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and urged them to use their uniqueness as their "superpower" to accomplish their career and life goals. His remarks were taped Friday and played at Saturday's ceremony. 

And once graduates walked off the stage with their diploma, they and their families could walk right next door to get vaccinated at the Pratt & Whitney Airfield.