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Valedictorian makes the most of it after COVID sidelined her from grad ceremony

When Gerryzze Ilan found out she and her family had COVID, the Waipahu High School senior knew she couldn’t attend graduation in-person.
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 3:10 PM HST|Updated: May. 18, 2022 at 4:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When Gerryzze Ilan found out she and her family had COVID, the Waipahu High School senior knew she couldn’t attend graduation in-person.

But she hoped to participate in some way.

The valedictorian was active in school, joining several organizations, including the National Honor Society, Phi Theta Kappa: International College Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society.

The heartbreak intensified when her sister was told by the school that graduates absent from the ceremony would not be announced by name.

For the Ilans, it meant no recognition for four years of sacrifice.

“I was really hurt. Because I thought that was the least they could do,” Gerryzze Ilan said. “I’m the first in my family to be valedictorian. And then my parents are so proud of me.”

“It was very disappointing,” said her sister, Geraldine Ilan.

“Just seeing her cry, and even my family cry, because we couldn’t do anything about it either.”

But the sisters got some good news Wednesday morning.

The school plans to recognize four COVID-positive students who can’t attend the ceremony.

Geraldine believes administrators should communicate with families to avoid the heartbreak they went through. “I thought that because COVID is still in the midst of us, I thought that they would try to do something to accommodate those that contracted COVID as it’s out of their control,” she said.

“I’m glad that they can share her name now. But I wish that there was some way for them to allow her to participate virtually or some sort of hybrid situation.”

While Gerryzze Ilan can’t celebrate with her friends and teachers, the family said they’ll watch the livestream and “cheehoo!” at home. And they’ll do what they can to make the experience special, even if it means celebrating later after they’ve recovered.

Gerryzze Ilan plans to attend Chapman College in California in the fall. She says this experience is one of many life lessons she’s had during the pandemic.

“We worked as hard and put in as much effort as we can to get to where we are,” she said.

“This moment doesn’t define who we are. It’s just one of those events that we’ll look back on and I know we did it.”

Spoken like a true valedictorian.

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