GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Friday was East Carolina University’s graduation day. Students and their families and friends gathered at Dowdy-Ficklen stadium to celebrate the class of 2020 and 2021. 

It’s a big day for Quanisha Jones, who’s a first generation graduate in her family.

“I’m the oldest of seven kids, so honestly it means a lot just to set an example for my siblings, for my family,” said Jones. 

The class of 2020 and 2021 had to push through a lot of barriers.

“I just graduated at 9 o’clock and it was the best feeling in the world. It was a long road, and I didn’t think I was going to make it,” said ECU graduate Aniya Deriggs.

There were some changes to this year’s celebration, like social distancing and mask guidelines. Regardless of some restrictions, ECU graduates said having an in-person ceremony during COVID-19 was a surreal feeling. 

Unlike last year, families and friends are able to celebrate in the community. This is a great opportunity for local shops and restaurants to see more foot traffic in their business. 

The owner of Kings Deli and Starlight Cafe said his restaurant is already fully booked for reservations Friday and he can tell the weekend will continue to be busy. 

“I think it’s been great for everybody out there, I like the energy in town, people are walking around again and I think all the businesses are going to benefit from it,” Tobias Boutilier said. “I haven’t had a fully booked restaurant in a while, so it’s nice to have the customers back.”

These graduation ceremonies weren’t just for the class of 2021. The university expected about 500 members of the class of 2020 to attend the ceremonies as well. Due to social distancing guidelines those graduates were required to sit with their guests. 

According to the university, the ceremonies will be uploaded to ECU’s website next week.