Leeward Community College's 2nd drive-through graduation
Article and photo by Lindsey Millerd
This Friday, Leeward Community College’s 2022 commencement ceremony will be taking place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The campus will be having a drive-through graduation and a livestream of the event, with 230 graduates and their guests attending the event.
Since the start of the COVID pandemic, the commencement organizers across the UH campuses have been meeting with one another to share ideas and best practices to host safe graduation ceremonies. Each campus has been adjusting their ceremonies according to public health regulations over the past couple of years and this year many shifted back to traditional events.
As of May 1st, 7 of the 10 UH campuses will be having in-person ceremonies. Leeward, Kapi‘olani, and Hawaiʻi Community College - Pālamanui (Kona) opted for drive-through or walk-through alternatives. Several campuses had administration decide on the commencement format, while Leeward left it to be decided by the school’s commencement committee. Lexer Chou, Leeward’s Student Life Coordinator, shared some of the reasoning behind the committee’s choice.
Chou shared that there were a few logistical issues to consider, many due to COVID guidelines in place when this year’s planning had begun. For example, the UH vaccine policy was in place just a couple of months ago. With that policy, Lumisught checks would have been required for all guests, which would have been difficult for guests to figure out and for a limited staff to enforce.
That policy has since been lifted in March, but by then the commencement planning for a drive-through was already well under way. While it may have been possible to make a switch, Leeward wanted to stick with the original plan and focus on execution instead of rushing to change the event.
Chou said, “we decided early on, whatever we decide, that’s what we’re going to stick to.” She also pointed out that, “commencement takes almost seven months to plan with vendors and everything.”
Another main factor was that if the school were to do a traditional ceremony, they may have had to limit the number of guests due to ongoing COVID recommendations. Most of the other campuses limited guests to either 2 or 4 per graduate. As of May 1, UH Mānoa and UH Maui were the only ones that ended up lifting all capacity limits.
With a drive-through you are only limited by the number of seats in your vehicle. Graduates could come in any size vehicle, even a m bringing as many guests as they please. While it’s untraditional, it’s also a fun opportunity to decorate your car and have a fun time with your closest loved ones.
After running last year’s drive-through ceremony, Leeward’s commencement committee also realized there were many benefits to the alternative graduation format. It is more efficient, less busy, and there’s an opportunity for some creative components.
“The reality is, it’s quicker. With a traditional ceremony, you got to be there the whole two to three hours,” Chou explained. With the drive-through, graduates and guests don’t need to stay for the entire event, they can just watch the livestream at home, come at their selected time and will be out in around 20 minutes.
While it is sad to miss out on the group environment, time-wise, it makes a lot of sense for the many guests who are really there just to support their one graduate. Many people may not necessarily want to sit through the hundreds of other graduates and deal with the chaotic crowds at the event.
Chou also noted that the graduates get a little extra time to shine, saying, “you’re there on the stage a little longer, you get to take your photo a little longer, and then this year we added the extra photo taking stations too.”
There are also many modifications this year that Leeward will be implementing to ensure a fun and festive event. “Last year I was very much concerned about the logistics, that I kind of didn’t really think about the celebratory part of it,” Chou expressed.
The layout of the drive through will be relatively similar to last year, but with some exciting new additions to look forward to including live music, bubbles, more decorations, and a photo booth station.
The live music is a unique touch that will make the whole event feel more lively. There will be a musician performing near the campus bus stop, so cars can roll their windows down and enjoy the live music as they wait their turn.
While of course it would have been nice to have everyone together to celebrate as a school, the convenience of the drive through is really helpful, especially with COVID concerns that are waning but still present in the community.
Leeward looks forward to returning to a traditional graduation ceremony next school year, but for now, the commencement committee is working hard to make the best drive-through possible for graduates and their guests.
Be sure to check out the commencement page which has graduate profiles and a livestream that will be available during the event on May 13. Graduates can check out these reminders from Student Life for the map and procedures for the event.
Congratulations class of 2022! Stay tuned on Instagram @leewardcc and @ka_manao for commencement coverage!