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A virtual celebration: Kindergarteners graduate after a year of big changes

By Destiny Hinton

image of cake that looks like bus on table surrounded by pieces of cake

After a year of changes and challenges, the 14 graduates of the 2021 kindergarten class at St. Jude celebrated their graduation in a big, virtual way.

Teachers and staff at the hospital worked together to create a virtual celebration to honor the graduates. Last year, the St. Jude School Program by Chili’s was unable to hold its traditional graduation ceremony on campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the school’s staff created an event to honor both their students’ achievements and their resilience.

“We had to cancel our graduation last year, which broke our hearts,” said K–6 school program teacher Michaela Shurden. “We did not want that to happen again this year. We were going to figure out a way to make it happen. This is an important milestone for our patients.”

Teachers mailed each graduate a cap and gown, diploma and a yard sign to recognize their achievement. All items were donated by Varsity Brands.

Each student’s family had the special task of sending in a short video. Dressed in their caps and gowns, the students shared their favorite things about kindergarten, and what they want to be when they grow up. The hospital’s Biomedical Communications video team compiled the clips and produced the video.

Shurden and her colleague Kaci Richardson shared messages along with principal Randy Thompson and school head Laurie Leigh. Special speakers included St. Jude President and CEO James R. Downing, MD, and ALSAC President and CEO Richard C. Shadyac Jr.

“We were disappointed last year, as everyone was, in terms of not doing graduations,” Leigh said. “We were happy to be able to share this with the kindergarteners and give them the opportunity to make their videos and to have this event.” 

St. Jude video

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