‘Really happy to be here’ : NAIT holds in-person convocations for first time since 2019

‘I’m really happy to be here right now’

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Graduating NAIT student Braydon Tol feels lucky to be graduating this year, instead of last year.

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Tol, 26, walked across the Jubilee Auditorium stage Saturday as the school’s convocation ceremonies returned in-person after a virtual event last year.

“I wouldn’t have gone,” he said of a virtual convocation.

“I’d have popped some popcorn and put on a movie or something instead.”

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020 graduation ceremonies to be postponed. Last year’s convocation was held virtually, and included the class of 2020, amid the pandemic’s third wave.

Tol says his two-year program was pushed online after a month due to COVID-19 and Saturday’s ceremony was a chance to reconnect with classmates.

“It’s kind of interesting seeing people in person for the first time.”

The digital media and IT student was among 6,500 new NAIT graduates celebrated in five ceremonies this weekend.

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Both the University of Alberta and MacEwan University also plan to return to in-person convocation ceremonies in June.

In her address to graduates, NAIT president Laura Jo Gunter praised the resilience of the graduating class.

“It has been especially challenging during a global pandemic, but you did it,” she said.

“You showed great resilience to get where you are today and that alone is worth celebrating.”

It wasn’t just students who were pleased to be there in person Saturday.

Gene Bince, 86, said he was there along with his 92-year-old wife to support their graduating grandson.

“I haven’t been in this facility in four years,” he said.

Similar to Tol, electrical engineering technology graduate Sergio Beltran was hoping for an in-person ceremony as well.

“It’s not quite the same,” he said of an online ceremony. “I was pretty concerned about that.”

The 31-year-old said it was important his family be with him to mark his achievement, including his brother, who traveled from Colombia.

“I was hoping to have this kind of ceremony,” he said before crossing the stage.

“I’m really happy to be here right now.”

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