NEW LONDON -- The Coast Guard Academy announced Monday that it will hold a virtual graduation ceremony May 20 for the Class of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf is scheduled to deliver the keynote address during the virtual ceremony. Adm. Karl Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard, will also provide remarks.
"This decision was made in the best interest of the health and well-being of our entire academy family and our local community," said Superintendent Rear Adm. Bill Kelly. "I'd like to thank our faculty and staff who have made it possible to graduate the Class of 2020 on time, and deliver them to their duty stations prepared to serve our nation. The entire academy community has come together to match an unprecedented mission with unprecedented effort and innovation. I am enormously proud of them."
The Class of 2020, which includes 258 cadets, is the largest graduating class in the academy's 144-year history and also features the largest number of female cadets, 102, to graduate in a single year.
One of those cadets is 22-year-old Elena Calese, who said the decision to hold the graduation virtually was somewhat expected.
"I'm excited that my class still gets a chance to have a ceremony in some way, shape or form," Calese said, speaking by phone from Alexandria, Virginia, where she's been quarantining with family.
Cadets were on spring break when they were initially ordered by Kelly on March 13 to stay home for at least another two weeks. On March 23, they started online classes, which continue.
Calese said academy leadership circulated a survey to her class asking about graduation. Many indicated they at least wanted to have a virtual ceremony, and some cadets also included ideas for how they'd like the ceremony to go. Calese said she's talked to her family about doing a group video chat to celebrate.
Even though she is graduating, Calese will remain in the area. Her first assignment as a new officer will be as a deck watch officer on the Coast Guard's training ship, the barque Eagle, based in New London.
This article was written by Julia Bergman from The Day, New London, Conn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.