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Tech Seniors Reflect on the Past Year of Virtual Learning and Respond to Recent Graduation Updates

Oakland Tech teachers and staff have hosted school remotely since March of 2020. While schedules seemed to be scattered during the beginning, a structure began to emerge for this school year, with classes being held on Zoom on a regular basis. 

The new quarter system, along with a newly adapted virtual learning environment, prompted many challenges for both students and teachers. First of all, students had to acquire the necessary technology, whether it was a workable computer or a stable, high-speed broadband. In response to this issue, the Oakland Unified School District and other organizations such as the Oakland Public Library were quick to lend out free portable hotspots and Chromebooks. While many were able to take advantage of these services, some other students have reported that “while hotspots are helpful in unexpected situations, it is not something that can be depended on regularly.”

Beyond technical difficulties, students have had to overcome significant changes to modern pedagogy, such as a more independent approach in studying without in-person study assistance. “Virtual learning made it easier for me to be more flexible with my schedule. However, because everything was so flexible this year, I often found myself overwhelmed with the amount of things I had to do,” shared Tiffany Le, a Tech senior, said. “Being online made it harder for me to stay motivated with my activities and assignments since I didn’t have people around me to help inspire me, compared to in-person school, where I was constantly surrounded by hard working peers.”

Teachers produced various methods of teaching as well, whether it was self-producing video tutorials or facilitating in-depth discussions virtually. Many also offered flexible office hours to provide students with extra support. “Virtual learning has its own obstacles with time restrictions and certain topics in the curriculum that can be harder to learn online, but all the students were still able to persevere through the year with the support and enthusiasm of their teachers,” Oakland Tech senior, Christy Ko, said.

Though many people have been trying to make the most out of the new norms, it is with no doubt that the graduating class of 2021 will not be celebrating with a typical graduation ceremony. This year, Tech will be hosting both a virtual and an in-person graduation ceremony. “We haven’t had any senior activities this year or a chance to celebrate with our class,” Meron Gebre, a graduating senior, responded. “So I’m glad that we at least will have an in-person graduation.”

The virtual program will follow a theme of “Stronger Together” and involve speakers from people such as Tech’s 2021 class valedictorian Ahmed Muhammad and senior class president Reign Reynolds. This virtual graduation ceremony will be presented on Wednesday, May 26, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The in-person ceremony is not mandatory and will be following strict health and safety protocols. Students will be separated into four groups based on their corresponding counselor. Additionally, all attendees will be required to wear masks, although they can be removed when walking across the stage. There will also be no physical contact. COVID-19 prescreening information will be released by Oakland Tech at a later date.

Students attending the in-person event will need to wear a graduation cap and gown as well, in either purple or yellow. Moreover, tickets are limited to 4 per family, which will be distributed by Ms. Rosemary or Ms. Ethel at the Oakland Tech textbook room on Monday, May 24 at 1:00 p.m. Students must return all textbooks and pay all debts to receive their tickets. Diplomas will not be distributed in either graduation ceremonies, in order to maintain safety precautions. Instead, they will be available for pick up in the textbook room on Monday, June 7 at 1 p.m.

More information about the 2021 graduation ceremony can be found at https://tinyurl.com/otmay2021bullhorn.

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