High schoolers in Minnesota come up with creative solutions for graduation

A moving stage. A drive-thru prom photo shoot. A trip to the White House. Here's what we saw from local students last week.
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Fergus Falls High School band director Scott Kummrow performed the 22 parts for "Pomp and Circumstance" and compiled them into a video for graduation celebrations.

Fergus Falls High School band director Scott Kummrow performed the 22 parts for "Pomp and Circumstance" and compiled them into a video for graduation celebrations.

Minnesota high schoolers have been deprived of their proms and graduation ceremonies by COVID-19, but have been dreaming up socially distanced celebrations since the pandemic began. 

We've seen drive-by celebrations, chalk drawings and virtual parties. Last week, a few new approaches emerged. Here's a recap of events you may have missed:   

A mobile stage

In Victoria, Holy Catholic Family High School invited families of its 78 graduates to park on the track for its May 21 ceremony. Officials spoke from the center of the field. Then, two pick-up trucks, each pulling a small stage, stopped by each car. One at a time, graduates picked up a diploma from a table, posed for a photo and crossed the stage. Fireworks capped off the evening. 

Holy Family President Michael Brennan told Southwest News Media that he and his staff prioritized maintain the tradition of walking across a stage in their planning. 

“We pivoted,” Brennan said. “The mobile stage concept — that’s what allowed us to make it happen.”

The event was planned in compliance with guidelines from the Minnesota departments of Health and Education, as well as from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and local officials, Southwest News Media reports. 

A red carpet walk-through

In St. Paul, Brian Ingram's Hope Breakfast Bar hosted a drive-by red carpet walk for would-be prom-goers on Saturday.

A band performed as seniors posed for pictures in front of an ice sculpture. They also got a free take-out meal, the restaurant said. 

A White House visit

On Friday, two high school graduates from nearby Ellsworth, Wisconsin, reportedly attended a graduation ceremony for 20 high school and college grads at the White House.

The two were invited after word spread of their "impromptu prom" at a senior living facility. There, the certified nursing assistants wore their dresses and danced for residents. 

“I’m still processing it all,” Rachel Leonard told RiverTown Multimedia. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I’ll definitely be telling this story to my kids some day.”

Making virtual celebrations special

The Minnesota Departments of Education and Health released guidelines for drive-by and parking lot celebrations earlier this month, but emphasized schools are encouraged to stick to virtual methods.

After a ceremony that deviated from MDH's guidance, it was found that someone who unknowingly had the coronavirus helped set up and was in contact with organizers, MDH announced Saturday. 

"Graduations are emotional events that can come with unpredictable social behavior. As we have seen with attempted in-person ceremonies, even the best laid plans cannot account for the human reaction of students rushing to hug classmates who they have not seen in a long time," said Kris Ehresmann, epidemiologist and director of MDH's Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division. 

Luckily, the digital natives of the class of 2020 are no stranger to communicating online. Hopkins High School students held a promdemic, in which they dressed up and posted photos on social media. A student at Champlin Park High School created a website where students, parents and teachers can share memories and other notes, the Star Tribune reported

Days after the state issued its guidelines for graduations, the Minnesota Orchestra released a video and recording of "Pomp and Circumstance," performed remotely, for schools. It has since been downloaded more than 800 times, with some schools located in Wisconsin, Ohio and Canada, the Star Tribune reported

Likewise, Fergus Falls High School band director Scott Kummrow performed each of the piece's 22 parts separately, compiling them into a YouTube video that has received over 40,000 views. 

In St. Paul, a Johnson High School parent created a Facebook group where community members can coordinate donating or funding items that seniors would have received at their all-night graduation party, the Pioneer Press reported

Red Wing High School has posted photos and individualized messages for graduates on its Facebook page. Local businesses have also organized ways to celebrate the grads, including free pizza and cake, decorations downtown and a socially distanced parade.  

“It’s small-town pride,” Liberty's Restaurant owner Doug Noreen told RiverTown Multimedia. 

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