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Baraboo Class of 2020 celebrates graduation in virtual and modified in-person ceremonies
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Baraboo Class of 2020 celebrates graduation in virtual and modified in-person ceremonies

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In groups of 40, Baraboo High School’s Class of 2020 donned masks before walking across the stage, 6 feet apart, to receive their diplomas Friday at the school’s outdoor stadium.

Before the first of six abbreviated ceremonies, graduates Evan Alloway and Solveig Argo waited in a hallway just inside the school, in front of lockers labeled to indicate where they should stand.

“It’s just weird,” Argo said of having commencement in late July. “I mean, like, I had friends that graduated in May and they’re already out and gone and moving along, and here we are having our ceremony.”

A Wisconsin Dells resident, she said she appreciated the event’s precautions to limit transmission of COVID-19, which she characterized as better than what she sees around her community.

Alloway said he was “definitely glad” to return for a ceremony.

“It’s better than just getting a diploma shipped to you in the mail,” he said. “I mean, at least we have something right now we can remember.”

While each of the live events lasted around 20 minutes with shortened remarks, a full-length virtual graduation ceremony debuted on YouTube earlier that day. Principal Glenn Bildsten opened it by noting the traditional events, academic milestones and other forms of closure that seniors this year missed after the state mandated schools close on March 13.

“You have faced unimaginable uncertainty, adversity, challenges and disappointment,” Bildsten said. “The flip side is that you will come out of this stronger and more resilient. You had to be creative, learn new ways of doing things and be adaptive. Those are qualities and skills that will benefit you your entire lifetime.”

Adversity and resilience as themes threaded throughout the speeches from graduates Ben Florencio and Jacob Carignan.

Florencio said that while his graduates are all unique, they have persevered through shared experiences together.

“We will always have those deep connections no matter the distance between us,” Florencio said. “I like the way singer and songwriter Ani DiFranco put it: ‘I know that there is strength in the differences between us,’ but I also ‘know there is comfort where we overlap.’”

Carignan, noting his appreciation for having grown up with the Class of 2020, said their graduation ceremony was a bittersweet moment.

Baraboo High School Class of 2020 graduation

Baraboo High School graduate Jacob Carignan gives a brief speech during the first of six shortened commencement ceremonies Friday in the school's stadium, while Baraboo School Board Vice President Mike Kohlman sits behind him.

“This, the first memory that we can really have together for four and a half months, is also the last,” he said. “Ever since March 13, it’s been a roller coaster of challenges in our lives.

“However, this is anything but the first problem that we’ve encountered. We found ourselves face on with adversity throughout our high school career and in our personal lives. All too many times I’ve found myself saying, ‘this wasn’t supposed to happen,’ whether that be finding ourselves in the spotlight of the world, having to say goodbye all too early or even finding out the science room bathrooms were locked after you had walked all the way there. Hilarious. But I cannot think of a stronger or more resilient class, ever,” Carignan said.

Senior class president Lara Justus encouraged her fellow graduates to appreciate the small moments from their high school years.

“I’m excited to announce the opportunity for many more special moments to be made in an outdoor classroom, which is our senior class gift this year,” Justus said. “Located on school grounds, but outside the walls of the building, our outdoor classroom is going to be a space where teachers can take their classes to learn in a new environment.”

The virtual ceremony also recognized the 10 graduates joining military service, announced each individual graduate, along with their own personal message, and featured photos from football games and other scenes of BHS life.

“You have a huge job in front of you,” said Kevin Vodak, Baraboo School Board president. “We’re counting on your help, your perseverance and your leadership.”

Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.

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