As Bruin families around the world adjust to life during a global pandemic, families of the Class of 2020 have a unique challenge: How do you celebrate such a milestone achievement when all of the anticipated rituals and traditions are no longer possible in their original form? In this article, Ellen Paris reflects on the challenges and joys of last two months as she and her daughter tried to find the answer to this question, and find joy in unexpected circumstances.

Author: Ellen Paris, Parent ’20 has been a member of the UCLA Parents’ Council for four years. She has served as a member of the leadership team since 2018. In March, her daughter, Sim, completed her degree in psychology.

Both my daughter, Sim Beauchamp exp. ’20, and I have loved UCLA in every way beginning with the magical moment she was accepted in 2016. We became Bruins from the first 8-Clap during our accepted students’ tour. That day as we explored the campus, Sim kept saying in wonder, “I can’t believe I get to go here.”

Fast forward through four wonderful years during which both Sim and I enjoyed every experience at UCLA. I immediately joined the Parents’ Council at freshman orientation which truly made me feel part of the Bruin family. I also made a life-long friend which was the icing on the cake.

Once this past winter break was over, Sim, who was graduating a quarter early in March, continually told me of all the senior rituals she would do. She was over-the-top excited, as was I. At the top of that list was splashing in the inverted fountain after her last final. This rite of passage did not happen. I hear the fountain is dry.

In mid-March the world around us changed. Spring break trip to New York cancelled, end of senior year cancelled, graduation to be held virtually. With gratitude for our family and loved ones being healthy and virus free, we still did feel the loss of the joy for the end of senior year. How could our time at UCLA end so abruptly?

Then, a few days later, Sim – now at home in Palm Springs – came down for dinner with tears on her face after receiving the “graduation is going virtual” email from Chancellor Block. My heart broke. All I could think and feel for Sim and every class of 2020 everywhere and their families was, “You’ve been robbed.”

Sim immediately posted a heartfelt note on Facebook saying: “As Bruins we deserve better.”  I did not sleep well that night. Within 24 hours the email was rescinded, and a hopeful email arrived in its place. Now the students would have a say in expressing their thoughts on the graduation they want. We still, of course, do not know when that will be possible or how it will look. Rest assured: we will be there cheering loudly for each and every class of 2020 grad.

We celebrated Sim “graduating” at the end of March with a special personal curbside/end-of-driveway performance of “Sweet Caroline” (we are big Red Sox fans) by a local and very talented Palm Springs singer. Sim was totally surprised. We all sang along with joy in our hearts that day for being together and celebrating. For those moments, all was good in our world.

The class of 2020 will always remember these very difficult and challenging times. I am hoping the memories of four magical years at UCLA will soften the hard edges of the past few months.

As June 12 approaches I’ve been thinking about what we will do as a family to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event. Though we are 120 miles from Pauley Pavilion, I can say with certainty that our celebration will include an 8-Clap with all the passion and joy this day brings. Until we can all be together at Pauley with the Class of 2020 graduates, let’s all join in a virtual 8-Clap of gratitude as we take deep pride in knowing we are Bruins forever.