I caught myself humming pomp and circumstance yesterday around my house as I got ready for work, so I was glad that today was my last high school graduation of the year. From Grace Prep’s graduation, with a moment of hugs and prayers for each student, to State College in the Bryce Jordan Center and Penns Valley’s outside just beating a storm I tried my best to capture the personalities of the 2015 graduates.
Pomp and Circumstance seems to be on repeat in my brain this week as I covered four of our five county graduation ceremonies. Spread out over the week I covered Penns Valley, State College, Bellefonte and Bald Eagle Area and saw the popularity of “selfies” as someone on stage snapped one of themselves on stage with the class behind them.
Penn State holds three commencement weekends a year. Thousands of students earn their diplomas each semester and celebrate with proud strides across the stage and photos at the Lion Shrine.
This is my 10th commencement weekend to cover and I’m always looking to switch up the photos and which college we cover. For the first time since I graduated 4 years ago I went to the College of Arts and Architecture graduation. I might be biased, but I think it’s one of the most fun ceremonies across campus. From a morning breakfast the graduates walk through campus to Eisenhower Auditorium accompanied by a dixie land band. The keynote speaker had the entire crowd laughing and dancing in their seats before the diplomas were handed out, and with artistic folk the excitement is visible.
This afternoon I met up with a determined and inspiring young man. Aaron King, who grew up in Centre County, was wounded in Iraq in 2003. He returned to the states with a purple heart and lasting neurological damage to his leg and the effects of traumatic brain injury. He made a promise to his grandfather he’d go back to college and earn his degree. And this weekend after years of hard work King will receive his diploma from Penn State.
We chatted as we walked the lawn of Old Main and decided the veterans plaza, with his cap and gown and proud smile was the best image to share his story.
For the past week it has been graduation season in Centre County. We cover five high schools in the area, and this year each high school graduated on a different day. All of those days I worked, so five graduations later I am pleased that all the 17 and 18 year olds in the area are now alumni.
There are a lot of photos that are standard at graduation, the class presidents speech, introduction of the valedictorian, turning of the tassels and the cap toss. Those are key elements to capture but I’m always looking for something different and exciting, and those little moments that make each graduation their own. Through the commencement ceremonies my camera is constantly up and scanning the graduates for those moments. Here are some of my favorite class of 2013 graduation moments.
Sunny skies, blooming flowers and eager twenty somethings clad in blue caps and gowns covered the Penn State campus for graduation weekend. We cover spring, summer and fall commencements, making this the 7th graduation weekend I’ve photographed.
Friday afternoon I went out to look for features of the soon to be alumni at the key spots around campus. The line at the lion shrine stretched down the side walk, and was about two hours long. I moseyed around looking for new angles and those perfect moments.
With seven commencement ceremonies on Saturday I choose to cover one of the colleges I have not covered in the past, and one that had a notable speaker. I ended up at the College of Communications ceremony, where the executive chairman of ESPN addressed the graduates with a great message. Being in the media business I enjoyed his message to follow your passion and be persistent, and to remember family always comes first.
For me this was the most emotional moment to happen at a commencement ceremony I have attended. This young man has a medical condition which causes him to get around in a motorized scooter. With determination, and the help of a walker and two aides, he got out of his scooter and walked across the stage when his name was called. As he started out the entire Bryce Jordan Center stood and applauded him. He was beaming when he looked out and saw all the support.
The ceremony came to a close as the new alumnus swayed and sang. “Dear old state, dear old state.”