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COVID-19 Robs First-Generation Graduates — and Their Families — of a Meaningful Milestone

When Andrew Pérez left Southern California in January for his final semester at Harvard University, he and his mother, Carmen, focused on the next time they would be together. See you at commencement, they told each other.

Graduation was a big deal for the Pérezes — Andrew would be the first of them to earn a college degree. The whole family was coming, including his young nephews, ages 4 and 11. When his parents had helped him get settled at Harvard at the start of his freshman year, Andrew was as much a stranger to the campus as they were. Four years later, he was looking forward to welcoming them to his home, a place steeped in memories and experiences. It was hard to tell who was more excited.

Then, on March 10, an email from Harvard’s president, Lawrence S. Bacow, landed in in-boxes: The campus was closing because of the coronavirus outbreak; classes were moving online.

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