2022 grads sailed some rough seas
Cloquet holds outdoor graduation ceremony again
June 3, 2022
The marker on the Cloquet class of 2022 is obvious, and it wasn't ignored last Friday at the outdoor commencement at Bromberg Field. Speakers embraced what this crop of seniors have been through, their final three years of high school scarred by the Covid-19 pandemic. It only made them stronger, they said.
Class president Jonah Bryant-Nikko called it the "best and worst times of our lives."
Principal Steve Battaglia said the class before him would have laughed if they had been told as ninth-graders that they would end up wearing masks at school and celebrating an outdoor prom in a school parking lot. "Covid-19 was responsible for a number of things we'd rather not relive," he said.
But new traditions rose from the "ashes of Covid-19," he said. "This ceremony being held on our football field is a new tradition that didn't exist in the pre-pandemic era. Take a look around, the setting really is something."
The bleachers were filled with parents and well-wishers on a sunny but breezy evening. Tree bud fluff gave the impression of a snowstorm as seniors received diplomas, the wind trying its best to place mortarboard tassels back on the right after the graduates moved them to the left.
The ceremony began with a drum circle honor song. The madrigal choir sang, "When You Wish Upon a Star."
"These simple times have come to an end," Bryant-Nikko told his classmates. For all of their school years, students have been helped along the way by teachers, staff and those at home, he said. And decisions are easier with that support. "It's our turn to decide what road to follow."
Speaker Lydia Stone said there had been a running joke among seniors as the days dwindled down to graduation night. Any accomplishment, large or small, was greeted with, "Well, I guess you've peaked," she said. That lightheartedness simply masked what students really feel, Stone said, that they have more to give to the world and to discover.
"As of now, we've all peaked," she said. "But higher mountains stand before us."
But there are also mountains in the rearview mirror. Battaglia said Friday night's seniors could have easily just said, "I quit" when it came to distance learning and all the odd protocols surrounding the pandemic. "You didn't," he said. "You doubled down. You worked harder, you worked differently than you've ever been asked to work in the past," he said. "I think there's a unique grit and determination that comes from the unique experience you guys had."
The principal thanked students for their guidance in unchartered waters.
The ceremony lasted just over an hour. Alex Zegan was the last among the 170 graduates to cross the platform for his diploma. He punctuated the evening, which would continue with an all-night party at the school, by doing a bit of a jig with a knee kick and fist pump. The crowd cheered, and the graduates remained on the field to mingle with family and friends.