It’s a wrap: Seniors, staff share thoughts about end of historic school year

School logos for the Pequot Lakes Patriots, Pine River-Backus Tigers and Crosslake Community School.

As area schools wrapped what may be the most unique year in their history, staff and seniors from Pequot Lakes, Pine River-Backus and Crosslake Community schools shared their thoughts about the unprecedented end to the 2019-20 school year.

Staff sang the praises of the class of 2020, and students shared some of their challenges and disappointments in ending their senior year in a distance learning format with all spring activities and events canceled.

“I'm missing out on memories,” said Pine River-Backus senior Caleb Travis. “That's my biggest thing and what a lot of us talk about. We had half of the year to make memories, but we would really have liked this other half.”

Pequot Lakes senior Mariah Rickard said she and her classmates were taken aback by the decision not to return to school after spring break in March.

“Everyone was excited at the start (of the year),” she said. “As the year goes on, excitement kind of turns into stress and frustration, but it was still fun to just be around each other.


“When all of this happened, I think we all had the realization that this wasn’t going to be the same for the rest of the school year. Then things turned from frustration to sadness and sometimes anger,” Rickard said.

Stephanie Aldridge, who graduated from Crosslake Community School, said: “Before we had to be quarantined at home, myself and a few other students who did our schoolwork on campus would help out with the preschoolers during recess and spend time with them during some of their activities.

“It was a fun experience to get to know each of the kids and be in their lives. It was sad that we wouldn't have the chance to do that due to COVID-19. It was also very sad that I wouldn't be able to see close friends and teachers for a while,” Aldridge said.

The way the year ended was a challenge not only for students, but teachers and parents as well.

“My heart aches for them that this is how their year ended in terms of lack of traditional celebration, but at the same time I know it will be memorable because of all the adversity we faced this spring,” said Pine River-Backus math teacher Steffanie Bristow. “It's something they are never going to forget. I hope they take these lessons and apply them to greater life lessons they will face here on out. Hey, the unexpected does happen. What are you going to do to not only step up to the challenge but overcome it?”

Jennifer Muller, learning coach, leaning lab supervisor and physical education online teacher at Crosslake Community School, encouraged students to take into consideration these historic times.

“Let this be a character builder. Take something from it. Look at it as a different way of interacting with people,” she said.

This year’s seniors are a piece of history, said Pequot Lakes paraprofessional Darla Johnson. Her 16th year with the school district may have been the strangest, having to move from her typical duties to delivering meals to students on a daily basis.


Johnson took part in delivering caps and gowns to the seniors as they prepared for a mobile graduation ceremony, and she said there were more than a few tears - not just from the students either.

“They should be very proud of themselves. They stepped up, and they grabbed this distance learning by the horns and got it done,” she said. “I think they have been very responsible in how they have handled staying away from each other, keeping in contact on social media.”

Despite the severe shift in operations since March, Rickard said the school year went by really fast and, despite the stress that can set in during the final semester, the seniors wish they could have spent those last few months of high school together.

“Going through this, a lot of us have learned to accept the circumstances and make the most of it,” she said. “As much as we want to be together, we still have a lot of love and a positive attitude toward one another … I think we’re capable of great things in the future, and I’m excited to see what everyone continues to do.”

Travis perhaps summed up the feelings of many.

“It is unprecedented what's going on right now,” he said. “It's something we have for sure never seen before ever. I feel as if my senior year was ended abruptly but at the same time I'm still in contact with the same people I would talk to normally. I still have those relationships that I will be able to talk to these people even as it ends. We can't really change it at the end of the day, and that's what it really is, but as long as I can talk to those people, I'm happy about that.”

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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