Cougar class of 2020: North Star is first county school to graduate in COVID era

BOSWELL – Peggy Lisban was excited that North Star High School had decided to hold an in-person ceremony this year because seeing her son, Logan, receive his diploma meant a lot to her.“It’s a real blessing,” Lisban said through tears after Friday’s event.

The COVID-19 pandemic had threatened to withhold a traditional graduation from the North Star seniors this year. But the administration wanted to figure out a way to give the students and parents the moment they’d been waiting 12 years for, Principal Thaddeus Kiesnowski explained. “If you’re in education, you understand how much these kids have missed out on,” Kiesnowski said.

School officials didn’t want graduation added to the list.

That’s why the administration decided to provide an in-person graduation, despite state guidelines advising against such an event.

“I think we felt that we could do it in as safe of a manner as we could,” Kiesnowski said.

These safety measures included holding the ceremony at the football stadium in Boswell, limiting the number of guests, spacing all the attendees out six feet in the stands and requiring they wear masks.  Students also wore masks and were spaced six feet apart on the field.  Another precaution taken was that during the diploma presentation none of the seniors shook anyone’s hand to limit the interaction that normally takes place.

With the scoreboard lit up with all 20s in honor of the class, the several speakers rarely touched on the coronavirus, aside from subtle comments here and there.  Instead the seniors, such as salutatorian Sierra Walker and valedictorian Cara Augustine, focused their speeches on inside jokes and fond memories they have with classmates.

Kiesnowski briefly touched on the fact that the students missed out on a lot of “lasts” such as the last time a player walked off the basketball court or the last time a drama club member sang on stage.

“So, if one of the last lessons these seniors have learned is to be more grateful for the things that they may have taken for granted maybe their lives will be fuller and richer because they’ve learned this lesson at such a young age,” Kiesnowski said.

There was no recession held after the graduation as another precaution taken by North Star to avoid gatherings of large groups.

The seniors walked out of the stadium first and the parents and family members followed shortly after.  Missy Nymick said “it was amazing” to see her daughter, Nadia Krouse, receive her diploma in person.

She added that she was excited the school decided to have an actual ceremony.  “It’s an opportunity you’ ll never get again,” Nadia’s sister Megan Nymick said.  Lisban and Logan were also appreciative of the school’s efforts to hold a traditional event.  Logan said he was glad to see his classmates one last time and that being given that meant a lot.

“I think we did the right thing,” Superintendent Louis Lepley said. “If I had to do it over, I think we’d do it again.”