Rima Tejwani has inlaws in Hong Kong, relatives scattered across India and England, a cousin in Fargo, S.D., and a sister living in Las Vegas. None of them could make it to New Port Richey for today's graduation at Pasco-Hernando Community College, but they'll see Tejwani cross the stage in cyberspace.
PHCC will use live streaming video to broadcast today's commencement exercises over the Internet, so family and friends around the world can share in students' big day.
"My relatives really wanted to see me graduate, but couldn't afford to fly in from so far away," said Tejwani, 41, of Wesley Chapel, who will receive her associate's degree with a concentration in women's studies and psychology. "Now they can watch me live."
Today's ceremony marks the second time PHCC has put its commencement exercises online. The idea was hatched just a few days before the 2009 winter graduation, after some students found their faraway relatives couldn't make it to the ceremony, said Courtney Boettcher, the college's marketing coordinator.
"This option shrinks the distance for those who could not otherwise attend the ceremonies, particularly the elderly, military personnel and family and friends of graduates," said Burt Harres, vice president of instruction/provost of PHCC's west campus.
And it was the next logical step. In previous years, as the gym filled up with proud family and friends, overflow crowds were sent to the Performing Arts Center, where they could watch live streaming video of the ceremony on the big screen. Now that video will be broadcast online.
The number of graduates has grown so big — about 325 degrees and certificates will be conferred today — that PHCC has split commencement exercises into two shifts, Boettcher said. If the gym fills up today, overflow seating will be available in the Conference Center.
Tejwani hopes her husband and three children are able to find good seats. Her extended family around the world won't have that problem, although some of them will have to set their alarms: The 4 p.m. ceremony here is happening at 1:30 a.m. in Mumbai, India, and 4 a.m. in Hong Kong.
Getting that diploma will be an important milestone for Tejwani. She and her husband own a Zephyrhills golf driving range, but she's always been interested in psychology. She plans to continue her studies at the University of South Florida, and hopes to someday help others as a counselor or a teacher.
"They wouldn't miss it for the world," Tejwani said of her relatives around the globe. "They are very determined."