There likely will be a footnote in the Flandreau High School history books when it comes to the Class of 2020.
They’re the class that left school in March, two months before graduation, not knowing that the school would close for the rest of the year and they would complete their last quarter through online learning.
They’re the first class since the school was built and the Class of 1969 graduated, to not walk across the stage in the high school gym and be handed their diplomas.
They’re the class that got their own parade around town in caps and gowns after the outdoor ceremony.
“We face tomorrow to create a new story for ourselves,” said Grace Johanson, class president and senior speaker at graduation. The class may not have thought high school would end the way they did, nor would they have imagined graduating without a handshake from Superintendent Rick Weber, she said.
“That dream may have been altered, but that end goal is the same. We’re graduating,” Johanson said.
The future is the next chapter and is guaranteed to include struggles.
“Climb the mountain, take the risk and live life to the fullest because life moves fast,” she said. “As we stand here with the future in our hands, limitless possibilities and an open road ready to lead us into our future, I wish success to all of you.
“Remember to always strive to be better than the person you were yesterday and live life with a joyous heart, a positive mind and no fear of the future.”
With a pushy wind, combined with a few raindrops on Saturday afternoon, the 31 members of the graduating class walked a processional of sorts around the grassy square in front of the high school, to a recording of “Pomp and Circumstance.” As Principal Nichole Herzog called their names, each graduate crossed the stage set up on the west side of the green and picked up their own diplomas off a table.
The non-contact ceremony was part of the precautions taken to keep people spatially apart during a world pandemic caused by the coronavirus. The graduates sat in cars with their families during the ceremony, which also was broadcast over short-wave radio and livestreamed on the district’s website.
Instead of clapping for each graduate, guests honked their car horns as a message of congratulations.
In keeping with a Fliers’ tradition, graduates presented their parents with a rose and hugged as a family, while vocal teacher Lori Kneebone sang, “The Rose.”
Social studies teacher Travis Ahrens told the class that each of them has a choice to have a good attitude, even in times of uncertainty and struggles
“Your class certainly can make an argument that there have been many things out of your control,” he said. The students were born around 9-11, have never known a world without armed conflicts, graduated during a pandemic, will live during economic hard times caused by the virus and missed the opportunities to finish competing in athletics and being together for the end of their school year. But in a world full of challenges, the members of the class have been resilient, he said.
“Your class has succeeded despite adversity,” he said.
In the future, nothing is certain, either, but everyone has the opportunity to make the best of it. “Take the opportunity to change your attitude if it needs changing,” he said.
Remember, as members of the Class of 2020, they have succeeded, Ahrens said.
“All of you will forever hold a special place in our hearts and our minds because of the special situation you have overcome.”