Cal Lutheran University students, family attend in-person graduation ceremony

VENTURA, Calif. (KABC) -- California Lutheran University managed to pull off an in-person graduation for its students and their families on Saturday, one year after the ceremony was forced to go virtual because of the pandemic.

Instead of being held at the Thousand Oaks campus stadium, this year's ceremony was held at the Ventura County Fairgrounds to ensure safety and make physical distancing possible.

"This has been a labor of love. There are so many people behind the scenes who worked day and night for the last couple of months to bring this ceremony to fruition," said university President Lori Varlotta.

The graduation ceremony was broadcast on four large screens to family and friends watching from the parking lot. Each of the 700 undergraduates were allowed to bring one vehicle.

Leigha Kunkel's family rented an SUV to ensure everyone in the family could be there to cheer her on.

"I think it is more fun than a normal graduation because we get to sit with our family the whole time instead of being away from them," she said.

Despite the precautions, students and parents were just happy to celebrate the special day.

"It is really special. I am a first generation student so I am the very first one to graduate. I am really happy that they were able to be here and it is a great accomplishment to be here," said Xochitl Candelario.

It was so important for Moriah Sittner and her brother, Isaiah, to share the day that they delayed graduating by a year.

"There was a lot of trepidation as to how this was going to play out, especially last year, where we were actually thinking that they might graduate last year," said her father, Randy Sittner. "They both added a minor, which added another couple of semesters, so they were able to do it this year."

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