MADISON (WKOW) -- With cheering families and hugs between students, this year's high school graduation ceremonies look a lot different than they did a year ago. Capital High graduates said being able to have an in-person commencement was a special experience.
"It means everything to me," William, one of this year's graduates, said. "Nothing but excitement. [I have] butterflies still."
"It warms my heart that I got my family to see me walk across that stage," Davion, another graduate, chimed in. "I felt so accomplished."
The two are part of the first Capital High class to get their diplomas through the Madison Metropolitan School District.
"There is nothing alternative about Capital High," assistant principal Quinn Craugh said. "Students are going on to post secondary pathways, going to college, going on to careers, and they earned that."
Craugh said this year's graduating class faced a lot of challenges, particularly because of the pandemic. But he said Tuesday's ceremony was proof the students' hard work paid off.
"It was the culminating moment of such a year, in which they faced so many challenges," he said. "Some of them had masks, and you can see their smiling eyes through the mask. Their joy and their happiness and their brilliance and their genius showed through, and they brought it all on stage with them as they got their diploma."
During her speech, the school's principal, Karyn Stocks Glover, said school staff would always remember the class as "the class that forged ahead, tackling each challenge as it came."
William said pushing through those challenges sometimes felt like a marathon, but he felt like being able to walk across the stage and get his diploma was a victory lap.
Davion told 27 News while he's excited for the next step in his life, he hasn't fully come to terms with being a high school graduate.
"It's crazy that we finally got to this point," he said. "We were just coming into high school and now we finally graduated. It's crazy."
Now that the two have graduated, they're making plans for their futures. William said he wants to go overseas to play basketball and Davion's goal is to get an internship and go to culinary school.
Stocks Glover said, in addition to being a celebration of the students' achievements, the commencement ceremony was a perfect symbol for what Capital High stands for.
"We have a hashtag at Capital High that the thing is love, and today was the embodiment of that," she said.
Shabazz High School also held its graduation ceremony Tuesday at Monona Terrace. Madison's other four high schools are holding their events on Friday and Saturday at various locations throughout the city.