LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The last two years at the University of Kentucky were marred by the spread of a highly contagious, and potentially deadly virus. Students here spent the better part of two years stuck inside small off-campus apartments or even smaller dorm rooms.
They wore masks inside and out and succumbed to frequent testing to ensure they weren’t shedding the virus unwittingly. Then they were told to be even more careful when returning home for holidays, so as to not make matters worse when they came back to campus. It’s part of what made today so special.
“Oh, it’s wonderful! I’m so happy I get to walk. When they gave us this opportunity, I was thankful,” said Master’s degree recipient, Isabell Snyder.
So is Kenyatta Mitchell. She took home a degree one year after being diagnosed with glioblastoma – a brain cancer.
“The diagnosis motivated me to get the job done and finish what I started,” Mitchell said, following the first of ten graduation ceremonies that will take place this weekend. Mitchell studied Kinesiology but will take a little time off now to focus on her recovery as she still isn’t cancer-free.
In-person graduation ceremonies had been shelved on this campus, (and so many others) with the last taking place in the fall of 2019. But this weekend the University of Kentucky will hand out more than 5,100 degrees, and will do so inside Rupp Arena during socially distanced, and somewhat lightly attended proceedings.
“It kind of symbolizes a return to normal. Almost. Obviously, we’re not quite there yet, but it’s a step in the right direction, so I like that,” said Connor Hays, who will be taking home a Master’s in medical studies.
The contributions these students made during parts of the last two school years weren’t lost on university president, Dr. Eli Capilouto.
“You sacrificed many cherished components of the normal college experience to protect those you know and love. But also to protect those you’ll never ever meet.”
That might be the most important lesson they learned on this campus.
“I hope you’ll recognize your essential role in combating the challenge of a century,” Dr. Capilouto continued.
*Students who graduated from UK in 2020, but didn’t have the chance to be honored in person were welcomed back for these ceremonies.