LEAD – Sunday’s virtual Digger commencement ceremony via YouTube featured 50 graduates, fading in and out, one by one, as Pomp and Circumstance played in the background and they persevered through one more COVID-19-induced hurdle, just prior to participating in a cruising parade held out front of Lead-Deadwood High School.

This year, instead of packing the bleachers and gracing the floor the gym, graduates and loved ones could view their graduation ceremony at noon on phones, computers, big screens, what have you. Then pack it up and line up in cars for a drive-through diploma pick-up and cruising parade through Lead and Deadwood.

“In the beginning of his novel, ‘A Tale of Two Cities,’ Charles Dickens wrote that it was the best of times and the worst of times,” said Lead-Deadwood School District Superintendent Dr. Dan Leikvold in his address to the students. “I think we can all understand the sentiment of that statement, given the condition of today’s Pomp and Circumstance. However, today, I’m encouraging everyone to just focus on the best of times. Life is a series of choices, and we all have free will and can choose for ourselves how we choose to feel and what we choose to make of life circumstances and what we hold near and dear to our hearts. To the members of the Class of 2020, today we choose to focus on how proud everyone in our community is of you and how much respect and admiration we all have for you today. You deserve our praise. You have persevered, overcome many challenges, in earning the right to be called ‘graduate … as Dr. Seuss said, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.’ You are not the class of COVID-19. You are the class of 2020.”

Senior Class President Daniel Egemo offered a welcome speech, encouraging everyone who was viewing to stay healthy and positive during this time and drawing on a quote from Dr. Seuss to frame up his address.

“’Sometimes, you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory,’” Egemo said. “As we prepare to end this journey and begin our adult lives, I could think of no better words to describe the emotions that we all feel. It was 1,355 days ago, when we entered into the high school as nervous, wide-eyed freshmen. Today marks the end of that journey, a journey that has been unique to all of us, a journey that has resulted in friendships that will last a lifetime, successes that will propel us to our future lives, and memories that we will always cherish.”

Dean of Students Mark Jacobs recognized Natalie Janssen as valedictorian and Anna Campbell as salutatorian and congratulated them for their fine accomplishments. Janssen plans to attend the University of South Dakota; Campbell plans to attend Dakota Wesleyan.

Graduating Magna Cum Laude, with a 3.5 GPA or above were: Zoe Passion Bourgo, Casey Rae Briscoe, Anna Christine Campbell, Hannah Eileen Campbell, Rebecca Cen Yuan Groeger, Emma Louise Hess, Kadyn Michelle Hopkins, Natalie Ann Janssen, Jordy Douglas Stulken, Isabel Anne Ward, Megan Mary Wehner, Alana Lilith Young.

Graduating Cum Laude, with a 3.0-3.49 GPA were: Daniel John Egemo, Cristian Patric Fierro, Jared G. Harrison, Blake Jenessa Mehlberg, Kialey Alexys Rose, Pratt A.R. Williams.

The class enlisted high school science teacher Dr. Bree Oatman to deliver the commencement address.

Oatman said for the Class of 2020, the COVID pandemic will most certainly be one of the events that changes the landscape of their lives.

“Our future and the future of people around the world is currently clouded in uncertainty,” she said. “There is no time like the present to use science or critical thinking and logic to look for solutions … You are our emergent leaders. You will be the ones finding the answers, the ones using divergent thinking and innovation to solve problems that impact your families, our community, our nation, and the world … To the Class of 2020, may the force be with you and may the odds be always in your favor. Always.”

Class Presenter was Librarian Gary Linn, who said that during self-quarantine, he has taken to watching Friends re-runs and built his address on that theme.

“During this time, you have really leaned on your friends to get you through this,” Linn said. “And as the saying goes, we will get through this together. You have friends.”

Diplomas were awarded by School Board President Suzanne Rogers and Leikvold at the cruising parade.

Class motto is “This is not the end, it’s only the beginning.”

Class song is “Good Ole Days,” by Macklemore.

Class colors are maroon and gold and class flower is the rose.

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