“Pomp and Circumstance” still played, but instead of audible cheers, applause came in the form of Facebook comments during Central Lakes College’s 2020 graduation ceremonies.

Despite the social distancing, Raider pride still rang loud and clear.

“Congrats graduates, you did it!”


“Congratulations PSEO GRADUATES!”

“Smile BIG Dental Assisting students.”

“Once a Raider, always a Raider!”

Those are some of the comments that flooded the Facebook Live videos as viewers from near and far tuned into the various commencement ceremonies Wednesday and Thursday, May 13-14.

“This year’s celebration looks different,” CLC President Hara Charlier said in her virtual address to Staples campus graduates Wednesday. “We’re all social distancing and not able to enjoy the celebration with some of our family and friends. This is not the way we expected to finish the semester. You’ve adapted, though, to this new learning environment of Zoom and lectures on MediaSpace.”

Though the graduation format changed, one thing Charlier said remained the same is how proud the CLC community is of the graduates.

“Tonight we are all celebrating you, and I assure you we are doing so with an abundance of heart and energy,” she said.

All the challenges students faced this year, Charlier said, has only made them stronger and prepared them extra for the future.

“You’ve come out victorious, and that is something to be proud of,” she said. “You’ve graduated college during a worldwide pandemic and a statewide stay-at-home order. You’ll be able to conquer every challenge going forward with confidence. You truly are CLC strong. And class of 2020, you will never be forgotten.”

Nor will the hard work and acts of kindness students and staff selflessly performed during a time of need be forgotten, like sewing masks, 3-D printing face shields and delivering groceries from the CLC food pantry to students with food insecurity.

“We’ve grown closer together despite being physically farther apart,” Charlier said.

Liberal arts faculty and staff from Central Lake College congratulate 2020 graduates from afar during a Facebook Live commencement ceremony Thursday, May 14. CLC graduation screenshot by Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Liberal arts faculty and staff from Central Lake College congratulate 2020 graduates from afar during a Facebook Live commencement ceremony Thursday, May 14. CLC graduation screenshot by Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The virtual ceremony format allowed for a special message to graduates from Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra, who praised the students for their perseverance and told them he’s rooting for their success.

“The resolve and grace you have demonstrated in persevering through your studies are all the more impressive and inspiring in light of the challenges and obstacles this global health crisis has thrown your way,” he said. “Your academic accomplishments are truly amazing.”

But the accomplishments don’t end with graduation, Abby Klein told her fellow graduates during her address Wednesday. Klein is the Staples campus Student Senate president, who graduated with an associate of applied science degree in robotics and automated systems.

“Last year I told the graduating class, when life hands you lemons, make orange juice and leave the world wondering how you did it,” Klein said. “So this year, I’m going to tell you to figure out how they did it. But don’t stop there. Keep growing and make grape juice or apple juice. Since Day 1 the world has been creating us. Now is our chance to create the world.”

Klein was among 682 students who received a total of 810 degrees, diplomas or certificates from CLC this year, including 199 high school seniors. Those who chose to participate in graduation still got to hear their names announced, but instead of walking across the stage, a photo of them flashed across the video, along with quotes describing their favorite memories from their time at CLC. Memories ranged from learning new skills and bonding with instructors to making friends and planning campus activities.

“One of my favorite parts of the Staples campus is the family everyone gains throughout the time in their program,” Klein said in her address. “While all of us came from a different origin, we all came together for a similar goal, yet none of us took the same path to get the spot we are in today.”

But all graduates experienced growth, Klein added, and all achieved their goal of getting a quality education.

The class of 2020 did not have a traditional graduation experience or celebration, but as Charlier noted, they surely will not be forgotten, nor will their perseverance to overcome perhaps some of the biggest obstacles of their lives to achieve the goals they worked so hard to accomplish.

All commencement videos are available on the Central Lakes College Facebook page.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.