Organizers create sign for Class of 2020

June 19, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Organizers create sign for Class of 2020
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As COVID-19 continues to cancel graduation ceremonies, Sunset Park advocates and groups are trying their best to give the graduating class of 2020 some form of remembrance and cause for celebration.

During the weekend of June 13, local advocate Alexa Aviles and organizations put up a banner at the wall of Sunset Park on the corner of 44th Street and Fifth Avenue for parents, neighbors and students to sign and write messages of positivity in four different languages.

“The banner was done in collaboration with Visión Futuro, which is an all-volunteer group of women and mothers in Sunset Park with special needs who have been advocating specifically for educational supports and services,” Aviles said. “They’re predominantly Spanish-speaking parents who are navigating through the department of education, which is a challenging and a complicated maze.”

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Photos courtesy of Visión Futuro

The group’s founder Laura Espinoza, Aviles and others set up the tribute.

“I know so many that are graduating and they have been lamenting about not being able to publicly engage in this kind of rite of passage and celebratory time and feeling really sad they can’t engage in these things,” said Aviles, who is running for City Council in the 38th District next year. “Parents are sad for their children. The older kids that are graduating from high school and going to college, everyone is feeling some loss in not being able to celebrate. The banner was one way to put out a message of congratulations and love and appreciation and we will have several languages where people can write one so they can participate in it and just be part of the community honoring the kids in our community.”

Though the banner was taken down after the weekend, a new one will be back up starting Friday, June 19 and will be up throughout the weekend. It will also travel around to different events in the neighborhood.

Photos courtesy of Visión Futuro

“Anybody in the neighborhood can sign,” said Aviles. “We had lots of people just stop by and say, ‘I don’t have a graduate but I want to send my love and best wishes.’ Of course we have encouraged graduates to write their own messages. It will move around the neighborhood and may land somewhere permanent.”

Thus far, the tribute has been successful.

“We’ve had really sweet thoughtful messages to children and grandchildren and hopefully we will get more kids to sign their names,” Aviles added. “That’s our primary target but a lot of community members stopped and wrote their best wishes.”

Sunset Park is also hosting other graduation events.

Aviles, who was once PTA president at P.S. 172, 825 4th Ave, stated the school is going to do a graduation march where kids will be marching the streets on Sixth Avenue in a socially distant fashion.

Photos courtesy of Visión Futuro

“It’s a small class but it’s the closest they will get to a big public celebration and I liken it to the 7 p.m. clap for essential workers and graduates,” she said. “They’re going to be in their caps and gowns and walk for a couple of blocks and their neighbors will be out there cheering them.

“Vision Futuro is doing another [event] where there will be a photo booth where they can actually take graduation pictures and do a fake walking on stage and getting a diploma, taking a picture and walking off.”

Photos courtesy of Visión Futuro

Photos courtesy of  Visión Futuro

A look at the signs dedicated to the Class of 2020

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