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MN communities find creative ways to honor graduates

From main street banners to private parades, communities find ways to honor high school seniors

AITKIN, Minn. — Call it the siren song for Reagan Wilson and the Aitkin High School class of 2020.

Sirens, blaring from a fire truck, led a parade of teachers past Reagan’s home last week as another Minnesota community found a way to honor graduates deprived of traditional ceremonies by COVID-19.

“These dark times you need to have a little bit of joy and see light in the small things,” Reagan said.

Small things, like having your cap & gown and yearbook hand delivered, while your school mascot dances in the driveway.

“I wanted the students to realize that we care,” Aitken school superintendent Dan Stifter said. 

Stifter drove along on every delivery – 70 homes in all. In the sprawling school district, it took four days.

And Reagan isn't the only senior from a community that has his back.  

In Luverne, capped and gowned seniors printed on banners now wave in the breeze on Main Street light poles.

“I just thought this was a great way to celebrate the kids, people can drive by and see their grandkid up there,” Kellie Herman, who organized the display, said.

Herman raised the money by collecting donations from downtown business.

Her son Noah’s picture is on one of the poles.

“Definitely not graduating with family and friends right there,” Noah Herman said, “but somewhat the same; everybody can see us in our caps and gowns driving down Main Street.

Seniors decorate the main drags in Wheaton and Fertile too.

Fertile did one better by lighting up every “20” on the high school football scoreboard and inviting seniors in for photos.

Swanville's Lucia Bryce was among the Minnesota seniors who delivered their commencement speeches on YouTube.

YouTube is also where you’ll find band director Scott Kummrow playing all the parts for the Fergus Falls virtual graduation rendition of Pomp and Circumstance.

Kummrow played 20 parts on 13 instruments over 10 hours – leaving his face numb.

“We've just been watching all of our students, specifically our seniors just lose all of these things that are part of our experiences,” the band director said. “What can I do as the high school band director to give them something a little bit unique? That's what I came up with.”

A week past his parade, Aitkin’s Reagan Wilson still finds himself impressed by the effort.

“You've got to play the card your dealt, so this is one of the most meaningful things that could have happened to us,” he said. “It shows how nice and loving this community really is.”

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