One graduation cap.
One graduation gown.
Van Tran says he’ll be philosophical about the whole thing when he drives up to Morgantown High School today.
With the gear in park and the engine still running, he’ll receive the above final-year fashion items for a commencement exercise that’s still in the consideration phase.
“Well, it’s been interesting,” said Tran, who is heading to Harvard this fall.
That’s because pandemics are interesting.
Goodbye, Class of 2020.
Hello, Class of COVID-19.
All of a sudden, the senior, a National Merit semifinalist who was in student council and on the Homecoming court, found himself living a social-distance limbo — just like everyone else.
As said, he won’t get out of his car today at his soon-to-be alma mater on Wilson Avenue.
He’ll say, “Thank you,” through a mask.
A person, having just handed over the grad-goods, will respond, “You’re welcome,” with words also muffled somewhat by a facial covering, so as to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
MHS started the cap and gown pickup Thursday, and it runs through 2 p.m. today.
Meanwhile, Monongalia County Schools last week presented a survey to Tran and his fellow seniors.
In it were options detailing alternatives to traditional commencement ceremonies in the shadow of the pandemic.
One drive-by consideration was similar to the cap and gown pickup — only with a diploma being handed over instead.
There is, however, the chance of deferred public ceremonies for Mon’s three high schools in July, presumably when COVID-19 cases will be on the wane.
Tran would enjoy such a ceremony, he said.
After all, he had friends and a social life to go with his grade point average.
While he likes the idea of walking across a stage, the world stage should still command higher consideration, he said.
“We need to prioritize public health,” he said, and if he sounds like a future player in that arena, that’s because he likely will be.
He’s planning on a pre-medicine major at Harvard, while also studying public health or public policy, two disciplines for which the storied Ivy League school is well-known.
“It’s funny how all this is working out,” he said.
At the beginning of senior year, Tran found himself becoming more and more interested in epidemiology, immunology — and, as he puts it ruefully, “All the diseases that can kill you.”
He wasn’t always paying attention this past January, he said, when reports began crackling of some kind of outbreak in China.
“We weren’t thinking about it,” he said, “but that was then.”
Tran may have more of a defined worldview than some Mountain State high school seniors.
He was born in Vietnam and came to the U.S. with his parents when he was 3.
At home, he happily carries on bilingual conversations in English and the Vietnamese dialect of his mother and father, who operate a nail salon in Morgantown.
He became a West Virginia History Tournament legend as a South Middle schooler, answering the most questions among competitors at the 2016 event in Charleston.
Tran will be 18 in August when he trods across Harvard Yard in leafy Cambridge, Mass., provided the campus will even be open then.
There, he’ll measure the markers to the Class of 2024, when commencement, he hopes, will be heady, in Harvard style.
COVID-19, he expects, will forever inform his research and career.
“Hey,” he said, “maybe I’ll be the next Dr. Fauci.”