By Jordan Gerard

Editor, The Caledonia Argus

The first-ever outdoor/drive-in graduation ceremony was a success for Caledonia High School graduates last Friday, June 5. 

While only immediate family members and their graduates were allowed to attend, the ceremony was broadcast live on Facebook and 89.3 FM radio station. Technology for the night was also loud and clear across the parking lot. 

Middle School/High School Principal Nathan Boler started off the ceremony with a welcome to grads and families and thanked everyone for their support during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He said the seniors walked into the school last fall with a buzz of excitement, ready to greet their “lasts:” last first day, last Homecoming, last games and activities. However, on March 13, students at Caledonia and across Minnesota were made to start distance learning, and then had a series of “firsts,” such as their first Zoom meeting, first virtual test and first socially distance graduation. 

Boler told the graduates it was important to focus on the future and encouraged them to “be a leader no matter what they choose to do with life.”

Though they may have been “six feet apart, the class of 2020 will be forever together,” he concluded.

FFA President and graduate Taryn Meyer spoke about the class quote, and as she and her classmates chase their dreams and make new friends, the class of 2020 will always be old friends. 

She also cited examples of leadership from the class of 2020 in sports, clubs, classes and also noted the leadership that was not displayed in the spring season due to the pandemic. 

“No matter where our diverse talents take us, we will forever be the class of 2020,” she said. “We’ll be remembered as a class that made a difference.”

Senior Class President Vanessa Hawkins said her speech was a tough one to write, but her mom pointed out the final scene from popular 1980s movie “The Breakfast Club,” which at the end has a message of “Do not let others define who you are.”

As that principle applies to individuals, it also applies as a class, she said, and the class of 2020 shouldn’t let other people define them as a class. 

“The pandemic doesn’t define us as the class of 2020. We are graduates of Caledonia High School,” she said. 

Guest speaker Abby Hoskins also said a few words during the ceremony. Hoskins is a 2016 graduate of Caledonia High School. 

She encouraged graduates to follow their passion in life and it was their own journey to take. 

Speeches were met with car honks, claps and cheers all across the parking lot.

After the conclusion of Hoskins’ speech, the gradutes were ready to receive their diplomas. In alphabetical order, each car pulled out of their parking spot and drove around to the stage. 

Graduates exited, walked across the stage to congratulations from Boler and Superintendent Craig Ihrke, and then had photos taken by Ryan Pitts. After their diploma was collected and pictures taken, they entered their vehicles again and got back in line. 

Once the ceremony was concluded, a collection of area fire, police and ambulance departments led the graduate parade down Gjere Ave., Main Street and to the fairgrounds.

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