NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The coronavirus has turned the lives of millions of Americans upside down, and one group that has been significantly impacted is high school seniors.
Graduation ceremonies across the country have been postponed or canceled, so Saturday night, a nationwide event paid tribute to the class of 2020.
Graduate Together: America Honors the Class of 2020 was an hour-long special filled with music, words of encouragement and congratulations.
On Saturday, the virtual graduation ceremony featuring celebrities, athletes and teachers paid tribute to the class of 2020.
“We honor 12 years of your hard work,” LeBron James said.
The Graduate Together special was organized by several groups including the LeBron James Family Foundation.
“I couldn’t be prouder of all of you in the graduating class of 2020,” former President Barack Obama said.
One of the highlights was Obama’s commencement address, which featured messages of hope.
“You’ll make mistakes like we all do, but if you listen to the truth that’s inside yourself, even when it’s hard, even when it’s inconvenient, people will notice. They’ll gravitate towards you. And you’ll be part of the solution instead of part the problem,” he said.
Among the tributes was a nod to teachers.
Here at home in the tri-state, high school seniors watched the special in awe.
Ally Cruz is a senior at Belleville High School in New Jersey.
She’s devastated by all the big moments she and her friends won’t get to experience because of schools shutting down.
“I feel really upset. And you know, I feel like me alongside the rest of the class of 2020 is like in a sense of grief over the fact that those events were taken away,” Curz told CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon.
Seventeen-year-old Lawrence Mendoza is also a senior at Belleville.
“I was really looking forward to, to all those exciting events with my, with my friends, and just, like just experiencing that together as seniors before we, you know, close our high school chapters and move on with the rest of our lives,” he said.
Both were thrilled with Saturday’s tribute.
“It’s a really good way to bring the class of 2020 all together for the commonality that we have that we’re all kind of going through the same thing,” Cruz said.
They say they found inspiration in the overall message of the night.
“Don’t be afraid. America has gone through hard times before,” Obama said. “And each time we came out stronger, usually because a new generation, young people like you, learned from past mistakes and figured out how to make things better.”
The message being that we will all get through this as long as we stick together.