WASHINGTON — Colleges across the D.C. area have decided to cancel commencement ceremonies because of coronavirus concerns.
Graduation for students at American University will still go on, but the ceremony will happen online.
"I didn't grow up with a very stable family life at home," American University student Ryan Barto said.
Barto, who is a graduating senior studying political science and marketing, said his college graduation day means more to him than most people might know.
"I wanted to be able to go up on stage, take my degree, and know that my mom is watching," he said.
Barto is the first person in his family to attend college. And earning his degree from American University is a big deal.
He saw his class' ceremony as a way for him to acknowledge the sacrifices his parents made to get him where he is today.
"That it mattered," Barto said. "That it was able to give back to someone. That service mattered to me."
His commencement ceremony is not happening the way he originally expected because of the coronavirus pandemic.
WUSA9 was first to report that American University is conducting its graduation online, and it appears AU is the first college in the DMV to commit to an online service.
Other schools across the D.C.area, such as Howard University, have already cancelled graduation altogether.
The George Washington University invited its graduates to walk across the stage next spring, the University of Maryland College Park is considering a virtual celebration, and the University of Virginia is looking into its alternatives.
AU is also offering pass/fail options for seniors and inviting students back to campus for a special ceremony in December.
"I think if any thing for us -- the class of 2020, this is our first real take on life," Barto said. "Things come up. It happens. Are we going to let it get us down? Are we going to mope about it? Or are we going to rise up and say it happened, but now I'm going to go out in my community and help someone who can't help themselves."
The university announced the summer semester will also be exclusively online.
Watch the 2020 commencement ceremony below: