Studio Launches 2020 Graduation Challenge

May 21, 2020

New York, NY: The Stella Adler Studio of Acting’s Outreach Division announces the launch of The 2020 Graduation Challenge, a suite of free online and virtual resources to support high schools administrators, teachers, and students wishing to create online graduation ceremonies this June that are both imaginative and meaningful. 

The project was organized in late April in response to pandemic-related school closures across the region, upending plans everywhere for traditional commencement celebrations. The initiative is being supported by the David Rockefeller Fund and is being undertaken in partnership with renowned cultural institutions, The New Victory Theater and Ping Chong + Company. The goal of the project is to make materials available to every high school senior in New York City and across the country that will help to mark and celebrate their high school graduation — one of the most significant rites of passage of their lives. 

Said the studio’s Artistic Director, Tom Oppenheim, “I’m so delighted to have the opportunity to apply the ancient wisdom of theater to this current day crisis by offering high school students a way to meaningfully cross the threshold into the next chapter of their lives.”

The 2020 Graduation Challenge consists of a free, 40-page online guidebook that can be downloaded from the studio’s website. Each section is aimed at a different constituency. For school leaders there are detailed project plans for several models of an online graduation. For classroom teachers, there are three weeklong lesson plans related to graduation and rites of passage, each one created by one of the partner organizations. For students and families, there are additional exercises and reflective activities which aim to help students reengage with the significance of their accomplishments and of their journey, rather than feeling a victim of the moment. Short videos by skilled teaching artists supplement the written plans, and walk teachers and students through the lessons in fun and engaging ways. 

Dr. Kevin Bott, Director of the Arts Justice Division at the Stella Adler Studio, came up with the idea for the project after Ritual4Return — the rites of passage program he leads for formerly incarcerated individuals at the studio — was shut down in March when pandemic closures impacted the region. 

“Rites of passage are among the oldest tools of human culture,” said Dr. Bott. “They’re what we invented, in virtually every civilization, to help us navigate the major transitions of life. It’s terribly important, as a society, that we engage in helping the Class of 2020 bring a sense of closure to this formative stage of their lives. Without it, many are likely to feel unsure about how to move forward into their futures.”

In addition to the online toolkit, the Stella Adler Studio is offering weekly webinars through June 30, and private consultation for any member of a school community who feels they need more specific support.  

Students, teachers, or school staff who would like more project information, can contact Kevin Bott at


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