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Graduation season begins with Arlee ceremony

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ARLEE – The COVID-19 pandemic changed the traditional progression of end-of-year activities for the graduating class of 2020. In Arlee, they didn’t get a prom or a class trip, but the 31 graduating students did get a ceremony.

On Sunday, May 24, Arlee seniors took the traditional walk, with orchestra music playing, to sit down in front of the stage. The ceremony was outside this year in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Each graduate was allowed to invite a few family members to attend the ceremony, which reduced the crowd to about a quarter of the size compared to years past. Handshakes and hugs weren’t allowed. A video with photos of all the graduates wasn’t played this year at the ceremony due to the inability to turn out the lights so everyone can see the screen.

The differences in this year’s ceremony seemed to be accepted by the students, administrators and families with a positive attitude. Speakers gave credit to the students for their resiliency and ability to adapt. “You faced a pandemic like no other,” said Superintendent James Baldwin in his welcoming speech. He said the experience has given students the ability to face other challenges in their lives with courage.

High school teacher and guest speaker Ryan Landolfi said he didn’t know what advice would be good to give in light of the pandemic because life was changing so much. “Here is the truth kids: we stayed home for two months because someone ate a bat last summer.” 

He was refereeing to the possible source of the virus. For all of this uncertainty, he said the pandemic has taught everyone a few things about human connections.

“There is no replacement for real interaction with real people,” he said. He added that the students talked to him through video chat during online classtime and said that they missed school because they missed people.

Denny Nelson-Sween was the salutatorian for the class. He started his speech by talking about the wonderful class trip the students went on this year. He said he had a memorable discussion about aliens with Sage who insisted that everyone were a tinfoil hat on the bus. The speech went on for a few minutes before he said, actually, “we never had a class trip.” Despite feeling the loss for what could have been, he ended his speech on a positive note by saying “the pandemic has taught us how to embrace the unknown,” which was good because many students didn’t know what they wanted to do after graduation.

As the validictorian, Peyton Lammerding gave a few words of wisdom during her speech: “Try your best and you will do great.” She said the school and the community did the best it could to provide a graduation ceremony for the students during a pandemic, and it turned out well. She said flowers, decorations and the stage were donated from people in the community, and because of “technology geniuses” in the community, the ceremony was shared live on Facebook so people could participate remotely without fear of spreading the virus. 

Each graduate crossed the stage and accepted a diploma. Principal Jim Taylor and a school board member Lisa Koetter congratulated the students without handshakes but did give them words of congratulations.   

The Arlee Class of 2020 included: Rylee Arlee, Grace Aron, Cody Best, Reese Bird, DyAnn Brown, Devin Cordier, Dustin Cordier, Jessica Daniel, Emily Fiddler, Billy Fisher, Charles Forgey, Antoine Haynes, Jon-Anthony Henry, Aubrey Ishler, Tarryn Koetter, Madison LaHaye, Peyton Lammerding, Dalton Marks, Melaia Matt, Halle McVicker, Denny Nelson-Sween, Kanoa Palazzolo, Amanda Raad, Zachary Running Crane, Mary Sampson, Jace Samsel, Bella Tanner, Cody Tanner, Treylin Tewawina, Troylin Tewawina and Skylar Vernon.


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