‘I was looking forward to being the first in my family,’ first generation college student says of missing graduation

(Photo Courtesy of Montezia Shakespear)

In May, Montezia Shakespear, senior in human development & family sciences, will be the first person in her family to graduate college. Walking at commencement would have been a symbolic memory to document her hard work.

“As a first generation student and a woman of color, of course I was looking forward to being the first in my family to cross that stage and get my diploma. I am most upset for my family. They are being robbed of an experience we have been longing for,” Shakespear said. “The most important part of graduation was getting my diploma and showing my younger family members that no dream is too far out of reach.”

There’s another big reason she was excited to walk at graduation.

“My grandfather who passed before I started college preached the importance of education. It would have been a blessing for me to know that he was looking down from heaven at a beautiful … graduation,” Shakespear said.

But as the novel coronavirus spread through Kansas, the university decided to cancel May commencement ceremonies on all campuses, complying with guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment related to gathering sizes.

Kansas State announced last week that they will allow May graduates to walk in December with fall graduates, but that isn’t a viable option for everyone, Shakespear said.

“Honestly, them asking us to do that is inconsiderate of those who are going directly to work after this semester,” Shakespear said. “Plus if people go to grad school out of state, they would have to travel back at their own expense.”

Shakespear plans to start working as soon as she finishes her degree, and isn’t sure she’ll be able to come back to Manhattan in December.

But it’s not a total loss.

“Despite the tragic loss of the commencement experience, my family has been beyond supportive and reminds me that the hard work behind my degree solidifies my achievement,” Shakespear said. “Not having a ceremony will not destroy the work I have put in these past four years.”

Kaylie Mclaughlin
My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the Editor in Chief of the Collegian. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a junior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage. I am fueled by a lot of coffee and I spend my (sparse) free time watching stand-up comedy.