WBEZ Brings Graduation to Life for Class of 2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic has upended life for everyone, the class of 2020 is feeling the pressure of cancellation more acutely than most. In-person commencement exercises aren’t happening this year, meaning graduates won’t take the ceremonial walk across the stage.

But this week, WBEZ is bringing a different party to life.

“The onset of the coronavirus pandemic was sudden and significant to people of all ages. And now, protesters across the country are demanding changes in American policing,” said Kate Grossman, senior education editor of WBEZ.  “Against this backdrop, students across the Chicago area are still marking important milestones this month. Through a series of WBEZ features and activities for graduates, their families, and our community at large, we hope to provide a bright spot amid a time of public health concerns and, now, protests by shining a light on the Class of 2020 and the future they have ahead of them.” 

#ChiGradWeek, which is playing out all week, is a special commemoration broadcast by WBEZ and available on It includes five elements to honor 2020 graduates. Here’s what they’ve put together:

  • Unforgettable: What’s the magic behind an adult who makes an indelible mark on a young person’s life? Over three days, we hear from local students in conversation with an adult that has changed their lives. 
  • We the Graduates: A community commencement speech written and voiced line-by-line by Chicago area high school seniors.
  •  Grad Grams: WBEZ designed free, customizable graduation Instagram “Grad Gramscards and took submissions from listeners and readers for WBEZ to deliver to their graduates. Each one featured artwork from talented 2020 seniors from Chicago high schools. Submissions closed on June 7, but you can check out WBEZ’s @chigradgrams account on Instagram to see how families are celebrating their graduates.
  • Class of 2020 sing-along: From 9 p.m. to midnight on Friday, June 12, Vocalo Radio will take over WBEZ 91.5 with a community sing-along and dance party for people to do from their homes at the end of #ChiGradWeek. The sing-along will be dedicated to the Class of 2020 in partnership with Chicago Unite at Night, the folks behind the nightly sings. This will be followed by a simulcast of Vocalo’s Friday Night DJ Series.

On Sunday, June 14, will livestream the city of Chicago’s virtual high school graduation ceremony from 1 to 2 p.m. It will be emceed by Chicago Hamilton star Miguel Cervantes. Oprah Winfrey will deliver the commencement speech, The Voice’s Katie Kadan will sing the national anthem, and students will perform throughout. Portions of the ceremony will also air on 91.5 FM.

#ChiGradWeek is for students graduating across the Chicago area—including from 8th grade, high school, college or any post-secondary institution. For WBEZ, opening up the festivities to everybody is an essential way for the community to set these students up for success during a tumultuous time.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.