In a year quite unlike any other due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Indus School graduation took place outside for the first time in a long time, if ever.

When Principal Laurie Bitter considered the options for graduation this year, she decided to go through with the graduation for the Indus Outdoor Education Magnet School, fittingly locating it outdoors in the parking lot north of the school. With a committee led by senior class adviser Wendy Mayer, graduation plans took shape.

On Friday, 10 seniors graduated from Indus School, with only their families allowed to attend. Guests pulled their cars into a semi-circle around the parking lot where parking slots had been identified, and they then stayed in their cars for the ceremony. The program took place under a canopy, whose perimeter was lined with baskets of flowers. Chairs for graduates were spread out to the left and right of the canopy, with a “social distance” between them. Staff assisted, wearing masks, creating a surreal atmosphere.

As the ceremony began, the seniors proceeded around the parking lot in front of the vehicles to the recorded sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance,” played by the Minnesota Orchestra and donated by them for 2020 graduates.

A recorded version of the national anthem was sung by a vocal group from East Tennessee State University, which included former Indus graduate, Holger Olesen. Bitter gave opening comments, then seniors presented white roses to their families at their vehicles.

Scholarships were presented to valedictorian Jordyn Vacura, salutatorian Emma Morgan, and seniors Anastasia Noyes and Erika Loughrey.

The faculty graduation speaker, social studies teacher JoAnn Parish, addressed the circumstances of the world pandemic crisis, noting that, “It’s important during times of crisis to look beyond personal needs and disappointments” and to begin to “see the needs of our society as a whole.”

She challenged graduates to “step up and steer our world to better times” by being “positive, informed, responsible, and active citizens.” Parish explained that this will require cooperation, respect, strength, self-improvement, balance, and following the ideals of freedom, equality, and unity. She also reflected on how this unique graduation day might be looked at 40 years from now at their high school reunion. Quoting from Andy Rooney of ‘60 Minutes,’ Parish concluded, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes!” She encouraged students to “enjoy life now, be all you can be, and work for a better world.”

Salutatorian Emma Morgan followed with her speech to the senior class, thanking them for times together, and mourning the fact that their year had changed so dramatically with distance learning, altering their expectations for typical end-of-year senior experiences.

Valedictorian Jordyn Vacura spoke next about her four high school years at Indus, noting that even though there were ups and downs, the years were meaningful times of self-growth and the best of the six schools she had previously attended. She thanked her class and the staff for their contributions to her life and education.

Bitter, flanked by school board members Teresa Rud and Ralph Lewis, then called each graduate forward, handing them a diploma with her gloved hand. At the conclusion of the ceremony she presented the senior class of 2020:Kendahl Cox, Austin Hasbargen, Cody Kelly, Erika Loughrey, Brooklyn Meyer, Emma Morgan, Anastasia Noyes, Alexis Piekarski, Jordyn Vacura, and Samuel Wingate.

Following this, students recessed to the front doors of the school where their parents picked them up, and they rode off into the future, car horns blaring!

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