By Matthew Rodriguez

Pasadena Weekly Deputy Editor

As Alexandria Velasco stood on the stage, about to give her valedictorian speech, she couldn’t believe her high school graduation actually happened.

“I’m really excited because I really didn’t think that this was going to happen,” said Velasco, the valedictorian of Marshall Fundamental Secondary School. “This is better than anything I could’ve imagined.”

After an arduous senior year of distance learning as COVID-19 loomed over their head, Velasco and other Pasadena Unified School District seniors gathered June 4 in the iconic Rose Bowl Stadium for a graduation ceremony like no other. With the sun shining bright and their families watching from the bleachers, the almost 1,100 graduates took turns taking pictures with their new diplomas.

“It’s a good day. It’s one of these formal rites of passage that is very important,” said PUSD board president Scott Phelps. “How many things are there in life that (are like this).”

Phelps also hoped that the ceremony shows the students that they can achieve anything they put their minds to, despite any obstacles or barriers.

Officials, such as Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald, also remarked on the significance of having an in-person graduation after many — including his own daughter — missed out on it last year.

“Having it in-person is special but having it in the Rose Bowl is even more special,” he said.