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Aaleiyah Spaulding of Springfield said Thursday she had not been on the University of Illinois Springfield campus since the school went to remote classes in March 2020.

Spaulding was taking part in a "stage experience" at Sangamon Auditorium, marking her graduation with a degree in psychology. That experience may have kept down the number of guests because of COVID-19 , and Spaulding couldn't celebrate with all of her classmates, but it was memorable nonetheless, she said.

The "stage experience" included the playing of "Pomp and Circumstance," and graduates' names were read by UIS vice chancellor of advancement Jeff Lorber. As they walked across the stage, they were greeted by Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney, where they could pose for photos.

Over 50 sets of the "stage experience," each involving eight students, took place over Thursday and Friday.

The public will be able to watch an online commencement celebration at noon Saturday, on the UIS website and Facebook page, which will feature remarks from U of I System President Timothy Killeen, Whitney and others. The virtual ceremony also will include the conferral of degrees.

Graduates had to wear masks and were kept in small pods as they proceeded through the Public Affairs Center to the auditorium.

Afterward, graduates used The Colonnade and the Abraham Lincoln statue, decked out in a robe, mortar board and graduation cord, as photo backdrops.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 13, 2021.

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