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Banners honor graduating seniors

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This year’s high school seniors won’t sit on stages in caps and gowns to signify the end of their secondary education, but communities are finding ways to celebrate them anyway.

In Arlee, Kelly Jo Nagel spearheaded an effort to make and hang banners featuring the seniors’ photos throughout the community. 

“They left school on a Friday and never came back — they didn’t know it was going to be their last day. This is a way to honor them,” Nagel said. 

Nagel is the parent of a senior, and she worried that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors wouldn’t get to experience the typical events that mark their passage into the adult world. She got the idea to make banners from Facebook. 

She said the banners signify more than the students’ graduation. They’ve also been involved in sports and extracurricular activities, and they’ve become integral community members. 

“People in the community have watched them grow up,” she said. 

Nagel put out a call for donations for materials for the banners on Facebook. She said donations flooded in from the CSKT Tribal Education Department, parents of students at the school and community members. 

Some students didn’t have official senior portraits to include on the banners. Local photographer Jamie Lynn Sievers of Jamie Lynn Photography donated her time to take photos of those students. Then she donated the photos to the students and the project so every student who was interested could be represented on a banner. 

Big Bear signs in Missoula made the signs. A number of local businesses volunteered to hang the banners in front of their buildings. 

Nagel said she hopes next year she can get permission from the state to hang banners from the light poles along U.S. Highway 93. She hopes the banners can become a tradition in the community, even when the pandemic ends and other graduation customs can resume. 

After Nagel and her family hung up the banners, they sat in Stageline Pizza and saw students walking around town to look at them. She said they seemed happy to have the recognition of their achievements. Her son likes the banners, too. They represent a town’s pride in its graduating seniors.“It was truly a community event,” Nagel said. 

Banners for high school seniors are also being hung up in St. Ignatius and Ronan. 


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