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By Collin Breaux

While the Class of 2020 did not get to enjoy the usual group graduation ceremony, the story was markedly different for the Class of 2021.

Traditional graduation ceremonies were conducted at high schools in South Orange County this year, but still with some pandemic-era twists.

San Clemente High School, Dana Hills High School, and San Juan Hills High School hosted in-person ceremonies on Thursday, June 3, with two sessions at each school to accommodate social distancing. Attendance was limited to four guests per graduate.

The three schools hosted drive-through ceremonies last year in which students individually arrived in a vehicle to receive their diplomas. This year, they returned to walking across the stage.

San Clemente High Principal Chris Carter said the school wanted to offer an event that was as normal as possible for graduating seniors.

“This class had to sacrifice so much,” Carter said.

Dana Hills High Principal Brad Baker said his school had come a long way in being able to offer a face-to-face ceremony.

“We’re extremely thrilled to have this opportunity to honor our seniors,” Baker said.

The event was a special chance to celebrate student accomplishments and resilience, Baker added.

Students in school during the COVID-19 pandemic have gone from online-only learning to a hybrid curriculum incorporating some on-campus classes to returning to a nearly full-week schedule. Throughout these changes, students have dealt with mental-health issues, Baker said

“As a community, we’re appreciative and thrilled to celebrate the Class of 2021,” Baker said.

San Juan Hills Principal Manoj Mahindrakar said it felt good to go back to an in-person ceremony, and there was a palpable sense of appreciation as the school held other end-of-the-year events.

“It’s all of us celebrating the K-12 journey,” Mahindrakar said.

Dana Point Times will publish a special edition on June 11 highlighting the Class of 2021 graduates and scholars.

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