(EDITOR'S NOTE: City Administrator Janette Bower shared Wednesday, April 29, that the all the banners have been sponsored. )

As seniors are finishing their 12-year educational career from home, the Wadena-Deer Creek middle/high school and the city of Wadena have planned senior signs and banners to recognize the class of 2020.

While working on a way to remember seniors, encouraging them to continue with their school efforts from home and thanking them, the WDC administration team formed yard signs for each senior, according to middle/high school principal Tyler Church. On April 21, a second idea to hang banners on the downtown light posts came in partnership with the city of Wadena, according to council member Wade Miller.

When the yard signs are completed this week, Church and activities director and dean of students Norm Gallant will place the signs in seniors’ yards before a staff parade.

“We really look forward to the end of the year when we can celebrate a lot of these things with them and it’s obviously different this year so we’re … as bummed as they are that we’re not able to do these things but we’re still thinking about them and we’re going to try to make the last month as meaningful as possible and give them some pretty cool things,” Church said.

Throughout distance learning, which started on March 30, Church and Gallant have recorded podcasts and talked over Zoom with the seniors, according to Church. Each with the emphasis of how much the students are missed.

Church said the school has been looking at locations to host a graduation ceremony, such as the fairgrounds and the old drive-in theatre. Superintendent Lee Westrum said Monday, April 27, the current discussion was how to have some form of drive-in graduation ceremony.

“We’re always thinking about them,” Church said.

Miller, too, wanted seniors to know they have not been forgotten. He saw the banner idea on Facebook and coordinated with City Administrator Janette Bower for approval along with a "yes" from superintendent Lee Westrum, photos and designs from WDC Public Relations/Community Education Coordinator Dana Cantleberry and sponsors from the community. Each banner will include a picture of the senior, their name, the WDC high school logo, Wolverine Pride and class of 2020.

“I look back at my senior year in high school and I thought that was probably the most fun year. You’re getting to that point where, I would say life’s first major accomplishment, and I mean I’d like to show to these kids … not just the city but the community cares about them and feels what they’re going through,” Miller said. “We’ve all gotten to have all the fun of a senior year, they’re just stuck at home so they’re not going to get the big grand graduation ceremony.”

When the banner idea was posted on the Wadena Minnesota Facebook page on April 22, sponsors immediately shared their excitement and it “took off,” according to Church. Sponsors can note which senior they hope to sponsor, though, separate banners for sponsors will be paid for by Miller since the goal is to highlight seniors. After the banners are displayed downtown, Miller hopes to give them to the seniors.

The banners will hang for approximately one month after being displayed starting in mid-May, depending on when donations are complete. The banners cost $55 each and an anonymous donor is matching donations for up to 10 banners, according to Miller. If a sponsor would like their donation matched, they can include a note saying, “Match” on their donation placed in the city’s drop box or mailed to the city office at 222 SE 2nd St. PO Box 30.

Mayor George Deiss also included a note to seniors in his Facebook message on April 24 saying, “Class of 2020 we salute no matter what” as well as sharing his own senior year experience.

“I do feel a little of your pain. 45 years ago for my senior year we had to vacate our school building as the foundation failed and it began to sink. Classes had to be held in different buildings around town. That was our version of distance learning,” Deiss said in the post.