NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Walking across the stage to pick up your diploma is a precious, priceless moment for which high school graduates and their families spend years waiting.
But as CBS 2’s Scott Rapoport reported, students at one Staten Island high school said they were denied that opportunity at their graduation on Wednesday.
“It was a disaster,” one graduate said.
“Everybody was crying. I was included,” said another.
No diploma, no triumphant walk across the stage with their name being called, and no turning of the tassel — that was what the outgoing senior class at Curtis High School in St. George, Staten Island said it got — or didn’t get — at its graduation ceremony.
“We wait for that moment just to walk across the stage and we don’t even get that. It’s like our whole high school career was pointless,” said graduating senior Ayah Aly.
More than 450 students in caps and gowns at a cost of $90 per person gathered at a private auditorium that was booked by the school for their crowning educational achievement.
But students said the ceremony started late, the speeches droned on for an hour and a half and then out of nowhere, the kids said they were told they were graduates and to leave empty-handed and with no explanation of what happened.
Jennifer Manzano said her brother flew to New York all the way from Japan for the commencement ceremony.
“I was so upset, because my brother came to see me graduate, and he didn’t even see me walk across the stage,” said Manzano.
Many of the students said the once-in-a-lifetime moment was ruined.
Some speculated the ceremony ended because the kids started tossing beach balls around. Others surmised that it simply went on too long and had to be stopped.
CBS 2 tried to speak with the school’s principal, Aurelia Curtis, by phone and in person for an explanation, but requests were unanswered.
Rapoport: “We’d like to speak to the principal of the school.”
Guard: “She’s not taking any appointments.”
Rapoport: “Pardon me. She’s not taking appointments?”
So it was in the aftermath on Thursday morning when disappointed seniors piled into the school’s auditorium, and were called up row by row as a group to finally receive their diplomas, Rapoport reported.
“There was no celebration,” one student said.
The Department of Education would not provide CBS 2 with an on-the-record response.
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