LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — After a year of distance learning, UNLV seniors celebrated when the plan to hold in-person commencement ceremonies was announced Friday.

UNLV senior Gabbie Delong could barely contain her excitement when speaking with 8 News Now.

“I started crying” Delong said of the moment she heard the news. “Because I was so happy.”

She’s one of many that will participate in graduation ceremonies this May. She called it a welcome relief for her entire family. 

“I called my grandma, and she was ecstatic; she started to cry too,” Delong said. “My dad was super happy.”

UNLV Executive Vice President & Provost Chris Heavey told 8 News Now this decision has been months in the making. He and others are working with the state and county to keep everyone safe. 

“We believe with fairly high confidence now,” Heavey said of the commencement plans. “That we will be able to do this safely and a fitting marking of their achievement.”

The outdoor ceremonies will allow 2020 and 2021 graduates to receive their diplomas in a socially distant setting, with friends and family cheering from the sidelines. 

“We salute you for having hung in there, through this most challenging year that any of us have experienced in our lifetimes,” Heavey said, speaking to the graduates. “And having achieved your college degree.”

It’s been a long and challenging road, and students like Gabbie weren’t so sure they’d see this finish line. 

“I miss seeing my professors in person and my friends,” Delong said of her experience with distance learning. “And all of that stuff.”

However, now that the moment has come, she said she’s so grateful for this new slice of normalcy she’ll remember forever. 

“We did it guys!” Delong cheered. “Woohoo!”

This year’s ceremonies for the class of 2021 are set for 8:00 a.m. on both Friday, May 14 and Saturday, May 15. 

UNLV will also offer a ceremony for 2020 graduates, which will take place on Friday, May 14 at 6:30 p.m. 

All attendees will be required to wear masks to the ticketed event and can invite four guests. 

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