BHS class of 2021 celebrates long-awaited graduation ceremony

In September 2020, students went to school with masks covering their faces, unsure of what next year would entail. As the days, weeks and months went by and the COVID-19 pandemic increased, the Class of 2021 had no idea what their high school diploma would look like.

But it happened. Hot weather and sunshine met the 425 graduates of Brainerd High School along with their teachers, families and loved ones at Adamson Field for an in-person graduation ceremony on Friday, May 21.

Graduates toss their hats in the air Friday, May 21, 2021, following the graduation ceremony at Brainerd High School’s Adamson Field. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“There have been several times over the past year that I have resigned myself to the possibility of this – sitting here on the football field with all of our classmates, like we did on KinderFriend Day at the spring 2009 – would never happen and it would. the latest disappointment of our high school career, ”Mari Devine said during her address to the class. “But here we are, and I’m so grateful to everyone who worked hard to make this evening happen, with all the unknowns, limitations and challenges that COVID presented.

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Among the happiness, excitement and relief that shone on the faces and in the speeches of those present, there remained a void left by the passing of his classmate Levi Siekas in 2017. Principal Andrea Rusk asked for a minute to silence at the start of the ceremony. to honor it.

“Not all classes have had to bear the brunt of heartache and grief in the past four years after losing one of our own,” Devine said in her speech. “The emptiness that is where Levi Siekas should be sitting today is the same kind of emptiness we all carry in our hearts after a reality of loss became evident to us at too young a age. And while that emptiness may still be there, due to the heartache, lonely halls, and some broken promises, it doesn’t always feel so empty.

Senior Hayden Kvalevog speaks on Friday, May 21, 2021, during the graduation ceremony at Adamson Field at Brainerd High School.  Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Senior Hayden Kvalevog speaks on Friday, May 21, 2021, during the graduation ceremony at Adamson Field at Brainerd High School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch


– Hayden Kvalevog, BHS class of 2021

That loss, combined with the many trials of 2020 and 2021, however, showed the graduates just how strong they really are, a point Hayden Kvalevog reminded his classmates during his speech.

The strength and bravery of the 2021 class rivals that of the great mythological figure Hercules, she said.

Students enter the field on Friday, May 21, 2021, during the graduation ceremony at Adamson Field at Brainerd High School.  Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Students enter the field on Friday, May 21, 2021, during the graduation ceremony at Adamson Field at Brainerd High School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“The Class of 2021 has redefined what it means to be brave, what it means to be a warrior over and over again,” Kvalevog said. “We could look back and regret what this year might have been like, but I’d rather you look back and recognize how strong we have become.”

If high school is designed to prepare students for real life, Kvalevog said she expects the “real” world to have nothing less than radioactive spiders, after the last year that she and his classmates crossed over.

Devine also developed some of the difficulties from last year.

“Not all classes have to deal with unmotivated absences to fall asleep during Google Meets. Not all classes had to attempt to drown out the inelegant symphony of construction that took place outside the windows of our classrooms, ”she said. “… You are the strongest people I know, and I have never been more proud to be a part of this class than I am right now.”

Senior Mari Devine speaks on Friday, May 21, 2021, during the graduation ceremony at Adamson Field at Brainerd High School.  Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Senior Mari Devine speaks on Friday, May 21, 2021, during the graduation ceremony at Adamson Field at Brainerd High School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Devine wasn’t the only speaker to mention Google and the important role it played for this year’s seniors. Language arts teacher Wendy Vandeputte linked graduation to the technology they all grew to love – or hate – during distance learning. The buzzword of the year, she said, was “Google Classroom,” which also worked as a metaphor for life.

Vandeputte gave graduates three “subjects” and corresponding “homework” to complete their high school career.

The first lesson was persistence. The mission: to make life what they want.

“Today is the day to start living in the present and aiming for the future,” she said. “Acknowledge what you’ve been through, but never let fear, regret, disappointment, or someone else hold you back.”

Some students show off the customization of their hats on Friday, May 21, 2021, during the graduation ceremony at Adamson Field at Brainerd High School.  Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Some students show off the customization of their hats on Friday, May 21, 2021, during the graduation ceremony at Adamson Field at Brainerd High School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch


– Mari Devine, BHS promotion of 2021

Second, kindness, and the task was to be kind to everyone they met.

“It takes courage to reach the person who looks, acts, lives or thinks differently from you, but that’s exactly the kindness that this world needs right now,” Vandeputte said.

Finally to remember, with a mission not to forget the people, places and experiences that have shaped them so far.

“May the ‘classroom’ subjects of your life be vast and invigorating,” said Vandeputte. “May you find ways to always keep your battery charged. May your virtual meetings be less frequent than the time you spend live in the company of others. And may you bring perseverance, kindness and remembrance to each new assignment. “

English teacher Wendy Vandeputte delivers the faculty speech on Friday, May 21, 2021, during the graduation ceremony at Adamson Field at Brainerd High School.  Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

English teacher Wendy Vandeputte delivers the faculty speech on Friday, May 21, 2021, during the graduation ceremony at Adamson Field at Brainerd High School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

After hearing all the speeches, Superintendent Laine Larson said she was confident the class of 2021 was leaving Brainerd High School with all the tools needed to be successful in life.

“As each of you, young men and women, take the next step on your exciting journey, I hope as a Superintendent that you will benefit from the experiences you have had, the knowledge you have gleaned and the opportunities. that were provided to you at Brainerd Public Schools, ”Larson said. “Use these skills and take them to the next level. Make a positive difference in the lives of others and in the community where you are placed.

School board president Bob Nystrom spoke to graduates about his grandmother, born 100 years before today’s graduates, in 1903, but with similarities, as she too has experienced a pandemic. Her struggles shaped her, just as the year of COVID-19 shaped the class of 2021.

“Believe it or not, 100 years from now, some of you will have someone who could stand where I am and talk about how your grandparents spoke about the great pandemic of 2021 and how they taught you to overcome it, ”Nystrom said. “So you can do it. You are unique. You are special. You are different from each person in this crowd. So be strong, step out into the world, and do a great job.

And perhaps Kvalevog’s closing words best sum up the ceremony and the year as a whole: “Once you become a warrior, you will always be a warrior.”

THERESA BOURKE can be contacted at [email protected] or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

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