Presenting Pelican Rapids Class of 2020 diplomas—at arms length—was school board chairman Jon Karger, right. The May 22 commencement was held in the high school parking lot, students socially distanced to
prevent the spread of COVID-19—and presentations were conducted with all the current health precautions
Assisting with the line-up to the commencement stage was Sheri Van Dorn, left, as graduate Autumn Gummeringer prepares to approach the platform

Pelican’s COVID-19 Class of 2020 presented diplomas—
at arm’s length—at ‘drive-in’ commencement

“The world needs us…congrats to the COVID class!”

That was the closing comment from Maddie Guler, as she spoke to her Pelican Rapids Class of 2020 colleagues and families. Humanity awaits these young survivors of the COVID-19 era. Perhaps it is they who find the cure to cancer, or COVID, or some other threat facing the world.

“Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.” Evangelist Billy Graham said that. Facing adversity is something all 2020’ers share—especially Pelican’s grads.

Only weeks after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the schoolhouse, the students also lost their leader. School Superintendent Ed Richardson died unexpectedly April 9.

Losing the highly-admired superintendent was a second dose of adversity.

“We can’t plan for days like these,” said Guler, the class salutatorian and speaker. The adversity of disease and death thrust challenges before all of Pelican’s students, but Guler said rather than “crumble under the circumstances…persist, persevere and overcome.”

Mortality, locally and globally, has made “us stronger and better…And we realize every day is a gift,” said Guler.

Though the backstory of the Pelican Class of 2020 is solemn, the ceremony was not.

Weird…yes.

Solemn…no.

With a Farmers Elevator flat-bed trailer as a commencement stage—and grain elevators looming over the proceedings. It was a graduation for the ages.

Families peered through their windshields to get a glimpse of the seniors receiving diplomas.

The “parking lot” ceremony, improvised to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, will be unforgettable. The fleet of vehicles emitted a cacophony of honking horns, celebrating each of the 66 graduates. It sounded like a jammed-up New York City intersection—minus the profanity.

Valedictorian Brianna Colosky brought warm memories into her message, describing her class as unmatched in its collective sense of humor.

“We loved getting a laugh out of each other—and the teachers,” said Colosky.

Though the class faced “more adversity than you could ever imagine…We will remember the countless laughs we shared over the years.”

The absence of Superintendent Richardson prompted Principal Brian Korf to call for a moment of silence in honor of Dr. Ed.

“Be awesome today” was a quote often associated to Ed Richardson.
“…Take the road that leads to awesome,” said Principal Korf. “Best of luck; and be awesome.”

It takes a village to be awesome.

School board chairman Jon Karger encouraged students to expand their horizons, but “reflect back at the village” of students, staff, teachers, administrators and families that comprised the village.

The world is an awesome place—and it needs young people, future leaders, who have been tested by adversity.

Pelican’s awesome 2020 graduates are prepared and poised—to make things awesome-er.