In a last gathering, the Wadena-Deer Creek class of 2020 descended into their cars, donned their face masks and followed their flight path through the Wadena Municipal Airport parking lot on May 22. The 59 seniors picked up their diplomas off a table and found their smiles as car horns blasted and friends cheered.

Courtny Warren starts off the ceremony with her speech and a quick tutorial on how to accept a diploma amidst a global pandemic.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Courtny Warren starts off the ceremony with her speech and a quick tutorial on how to accept a diploma amidst a global pandemic. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

“Welcome aboard,” Courtny Warren said as she opened the evening with positivity and laughs, remarking on the legacy the senior class will leave throughout her speech. Margaret Carlson followed the history of their character developing turbulent years, such as learning iPads and sharing a building with the high school students after the 2010 tornado.

Maggie Carlson steps out of her car to deliver her speech during the 2020 graduation ceremony.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Maggie Carlson steps out of her car to deliver her speech during the 2020 graduation ceremony. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

The incredible accomplishments of the class and the lack of needing a road to follow soared through Kamea Shreves encouragement to the senior class.

Kamea Shreves walks back to her vehicle after giving her speech in front of nearly 200 vehicles Friday night at the Wadena Municipal Airport.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Kamea Shreves walks back to her vehicle after giving her speech in front of nearly 200 vehicles Friday night at the Wadena Municipal Airport. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

After each speaker the cleaning team of fifth- to 12th-grade choir director Mike Ortmann and district media specialist Loni Niles headed for the stage, switching out the top portion of the microphone and even wiping down the podium.

Mike Ortmann and Loni Niles wipe down and switch out microphones between each speaker in an effort to maintain clean surfaces.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Mike Ortmann and Loni Niles wipe down and switch out microphones between each speaker in an effort to maintain clean surfaces. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Activities director and dean of students Norm Gallant and middle/high school principal Tyler Church spoke of the ways the class of 2020 will be remembered, and though all added in personal notes the class is inescapably remembered for graduating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Carlson said the staff at WDC has always helped the class transition and move forward, a choice the class made even on their bittersweet last day of school on March 17.

The graduates each landed smoothly on the stage—even when Cody Wheeler performed a flip—with the control tower of Gallant and Church telling them to stop for a picture.

“We are extraordinary,” Kennedy Gravelle said as the last speaker of the evening after comparing the seniors’ futures to flights, with students possibly having more layovers or staying on the same flight repeatedly.

Kennedy Gravelle sends out a final message to the class of 2020 and car loads of others at the Wadena  Municipal Airport.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Kennedy Gravelle sends out a final message to the class of 2020 and car loads of others at the Wadena Municipal Airport. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

The seniors’ final take-off brought them through town and into the football field for a farewell parade.