MILWAUKEE — Graduation is a day many students look forward to celebrating, but COVID-19 continues to derail traditional ceremonies.
At the Panther Arena, it was the Cardinal Stritch University students from this year and last year who walked across the stage to get their diplomas.
Cardinal Stritch graduate Jasmine Johnikin is excited to finally able to walk across the stage and get the closure she wanted.
"I missed my walk in 2020, but I'm glad to have this opportunity again," Johnikin smiled.
The university put the graduates in three groups to ensure the 25% capacity at the Panther Arena was not exceeded.
Each student was allowed to have six guests. The guests were given seat numbers and the graduates were able to safely social distance while they waited for their diplomas.
Cardinal Stritch Interim President Dan Scholz said safety was the main goal for their in-person graduation ceremony.
"Everyone is wearing masks and all around here we keep all the reminders of social distancing," Scholz said.
Beyond ensuring safety Scholz said an in-person graduation provides students with closure.
"The closure is the big piece and just the ritual of commencement you know walking across the stage hearing your name announced and having your loved one cheering for you," Scholz said.
While Cardinal Stritch was able to have an in-person ceremony the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee hosted a virtual one.
"I think probably we were able to make it happen because of the size difference," Scholz said. "UWM is a much bigger institution than we are."
This year more than 26,000 students enrolled at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee compared to nearly 2,000 at Cardinal Stritch University.
"I do wish it was us, but I understand the circumstances that our school is in,"
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee graduate Kaleb Canonigo said.
He said while he understands why a virtual commencement was the safest route, he wishes students were a part of the conversation.
"I definitely think that they should have asked or at least let us have a voice," Canonigo said.
Two universities celebrated their students differently, but the one thing they all have in common is they are all graduates wearing their caps and gowns proudly.