“I didn’t get a TV special when I graduated” lamented my adult son, who himself graduated from high school just a few years ago, when he first heard of the one-hour tribute to the class of 2020. But these are trying times. Everyone doesn’t get a TV special, but let’s celebrate the ones who do.
As coronavirus has prompted the cancellation of high school graduation ceremonies, Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020 will honor the more than 3 million high school seniors across the country. Curated by high school students and educators throughout the country, with the support of the American Federation of Teachers, this special event will include a collection of commencement messages, musical performances, and inspirational vignettes.
The commercial-free show will be carried by more than 20 broadcast and cable networks and streaming channels throughout the U.S. including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The CW, CNN, ABC News Live, Bleacher Report, California Music Channel, FOX Business Network, FOX News Channel, FOX Now, Freeform, The Roku Channel, The Washington Post, and Univision—which will air a Spanish-language simulcast of the show. All streaming partners will share the simulcast at 8 PM PT/11 PM ET.
Artists, athletes, musicians, commencement speakers, influencers, and cultural icons will show their support with performances and messages featuring students, teachers, and their families from coast to coast. These include Zendaya, Olivia Wilde, Liza Koshy, Lana Condor, Maren Morris, Karol G., Kane Brown, David Dobrik, Dolan Twins and more.
National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson will show up too. “I was inspired to teach by my mother’s transformation as she pursued her GED later in life after being denied an education as a child due to segregation. And I have continued teaching for nearly 20 years because I am inspired every day by my students and their commitment to learning,” he says. “Education is the most important foundation for progress, providing each child with the academic and emotional tools for success and a path to achieve their goals. I’m honored to be part of such an incredible event that recognizes the accomplishments of our nation’s high school seniors as well as the educators, mentors, and loved ones who have helped them throughout their journeys to graduation.”
Everyone will have the opportunity to interact with the #GraduateTogether campaign, leading up to the primetime graduation tribute and beyond. Students, educators, and families can share their personal stories with the campaign at graduatetogether2020.com or by tagging their posts on social media with the #GraduateTogether hashtag. Twitter has released a special hashtag emoji to honor the high school Class of 2020 and is hosting a virtual watch party to create a community of unity as we all experience the show. Anyone can join the conversation by using the hashtag #GraduateTogether.
World-renowned artist JR and his participatory art project Inside Out have partnered with XQ Institute to create the #GraduateTogether Yearbook, the largest-ever high school yearbook giving graduates a place to share their portraits and stories while making a collective statement. Using the special Inside Out #GraduateTogether Lens on Snapchat—featuring Inside Out’s iconic black and white polka-dot background—any high school senior from the Class of 2020 can take a portrait and submit it to the project at graduatetogetheryearbook.com.
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.