In the nearly 100 years Adams State University has been awarding diplomas, the 2020 Virtual Commencement Ceremony on June 6, was perhaps the most heartfelt. A combination of both live performances and speeches as well as special video messages brought on a surge of social media engagement as the Adams State Class of Spring 2020 received their degrees.

“It is truly an honor to join you in celebrating this extraordinary accomplishment under extraordinary circumstances,” said Daneya Esgar, chair of the Colorado Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee who served as the commencement keynote speaker. Esgar and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis addressed the graduates through pre-taped recordings.

“Our young voices have always been the drivers of change and we need it now more than ever before,” Esgar added.

Mariah McDermott and Hubert Price
Mariah and Hubert urge fellow graduates to remain resilient.

In and out of the classroom, Adams State students learn the necessary skills to communicate, engage, and act in the best interest for their careers, personal relationships, community, and current events. This was evident in the messages by undergraduates Mariah McDermott and Hubert Price; and graduate students Jasmine and John Camponeschi. All spoke candidly about the current struggle for racial equality and justice and the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the need for unity to effect positive change and heal communities.

McDermott and Price, both first generation students, earned bachelor degrees in political science. Their message focused on resilience. Price recognized his single mother, who taught him about resilience, including supporting others, to keep going despite challenges and to use failure as an opportunity to grow.

McDermott appreciated Adams State for welcoming students who have faced challenges and supporting them through tough times. “We do not know what will come from this changing world, but we are prepared to adapt, persevere, and change.”

The post-baccalaureate portion of the ceremony began with a message from the Camponeschis. Referring to current events, they rallied fellow graduates to work towards a more just society. “Regardless of what that diploma may say, you have the opportunity to use that privilege and power to rise up. To stand up for equity. To stand up for justice,” said Jasmine Camponeschi, project director of College Assistance Migrant Program Grant (CAMP) at Adams State.

Jasmine and John Camponeschi
Jasmine and John Camponeschi thank the ASL interpreters with “applause.”

“It is our charge to fight sexism, racism, and all inequity as we strive to create our new normals. It is our charge to do all that we can, to use our power and skill, our knowledge and education, to fight for others who cannot realize those three great truths of the American Dream…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” added John Camponeschi, Monte Vista School District educator.

From the moment it was evident the annual spring commencement would not be convened as scheduled, the Adams State Commencement Committee, chaired by John Taylor, Ph.D., professor of theatre, worked to honor the most recent graduates in the best possible fashion.

Departments across campus worked together to provide a livestream with uplifting elements. Performances by music graduates Caleb Clark and Miriam Lipke, and music faculty William Lipke, D.M.A., and Matthew Valverde, D.M.A., were highlights of the ceremony.

William Lipke, D.M.A.
William Lipke, D.M.A., professor of music, plays pomp and circumstance.

Adams State Board of Trustees Chair Michele Lueck inspired students to remember and celebrate their achievements. Brief videos by Denver Broncos Dalton Riser and Courtland Sutton added to the special celebration.

The recent graduates are invited to participate in either the fall 2020 or spring 2021 Commencement Ceremony.