This weekend, more than 7,000 University of South Florida students joined the ranks of the school's alumni. But they did it in a way that had not been done before.
Commencement ceremonies for USF Tampa, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee were all virtual, because of social distancing guidelines that remain in place due to the novel coronavirus.
USF System President Steven Currall praised the spring 2020 class for its perseverance.
"USF graduates aren't afraid to face the unknown, and that's exactly what you have done, with optimism and courage. Your entire university experience changed, moving from in-person to online, but you found ways to stay connected to your professors and classmates," Currall said.
USF St. Petersburg student body president Jadzia Duarte told her classmates they'd remember the fun times of their college days, adding that USFSP students knew how to evacuate for a hurricane and how to social distance.
She encouraged them to forge their own futures and grab their careers "by the horns."
"Don't forget that you're the primary author of your place here. Without your determination, motivation and passion, you probably wouldn't have made it through these years of learning and growing and becoming the capable people you are now," she said.
Duarte was instrumental in helping to get the Sunshine Skyway Bridge's iconic cable cases to be lit up in green and gold, USF's colors, to help recognize the students' achievements.
Other landmarks, such as Busch Gardens, the Sun Trust Financial Centre in downtown Tampa, and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg were illuminated in school colors as well.
The city of St. Petersburg also donated digital billboards to help celebrate the occasion.
One graduate, Lindsay Thompson, used her class pictures to campaign for a job. It was posted on the USF Alumni Association Facebook page.
USF's spring class graduates are being encouraged to march in the August or December graduation ceremonies to get the authentic experience.