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 Utica High School graduate  Sebastian Shaman, 18, celebrates  his accomplishment with his family.

Utica High School graduate Sebastian Shaman, 18, celebrates his accomplishment with his family.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Amid disruption, grads glow in their moment

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published June 19, 2020

 Utica Academy for International Studies graduate Julie ElFishawy, 17, celebrates with her parents.

Utica Academy for International Studies graduate Julie ElFishawy, 17, celebrates with her parents.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Like many valedictorians, Julie ElFishawy had the honor of giving a commencement speech to her fellow graduates from the Utica Academy for International Studies, who graduated June 6.

Her speech, however, was a bit different, since she was part of the Class of 2020, which ended most in-person school activities in March.

Although ElFishawy had to pre-record her speech a couple of weeks in advance for the ceremony, she gave a message that she says reflects the unusualness of her peers’ situation.

“I talked about how our class made history in a unique way and about how high school is more than just a stepping stone to our next path,” she said. “What we learned will stick with us in a much more significant way.”

ElFishawy, 17, said students submitted pictures for the virtual ceremony component. She said the in-person component was special, as well, because the school bundled the senior honor awards into it, honoring the grads as they walked down the stage to get their diplomas.

The different parts of the graduation ceremony “really complemented each other nicely, so we felt like we weren’t missing out on anything,” she said.

ElFishawy added that the ceremony’s online component made it possible for her out-of-country family to see her graduate.

“They really liked it and appreciated the effort that went into it,” she said. “We have a lot of family far away in Egypt. They wouldn’t have been able to see it in person.”

She looks forward to attending the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, and she said she is still waiting to hear the details of how that will happen. So far, she believes that in-class instruction will take place until at least Thanksgiving.

Sebastian Shaman, 18, from Utica High School, also had plenty of positive things to say about graduating.

He said the ceremony seemed pretty quick, but it was awesome. He added that he was in touch with his classmates, congratulating them through texting and social media.

“It was a beautiful stage. They had graduation music (and) passing out the diplomas — it was a tremendous experience,” Shaman said.

“Graduating in 2020 is definitely exciting. It’ll be an experience I’ll tell my future children and future grandchildren. ... Hopefully, everything is going to calm down in terms of coronavirus. Hopefully, we get to experience somewhat of a normal summer,” he said.  

Shaman said he plans to attend Michigan State University in the fall, where he believes he, too, will attend in-person classes until around Thanksgiving break, when online instruction could take over as the flu season begins. He said he is “really excited to get this next chapter rolling.”

“I’m super motivated to change lives,” he said. “I’m hoping to change the world of medicine and, hopefully, to be a shoulder to lean on for everyone.”

Find out more about Utica Community Schools by visiting www.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1000.

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