Though the day may not have looked how they always imagined it, 64 Medford students celebrated their high school graduation Friday with a drive-thru ceremony followed by a classic, Medford-style parade.

“Welcome back from spring break,” joked senior Willie Von Ruden as he addressed his classmates from the stage. As Von Ruden talked about how they have secured a place in history for the longest senior skip day, he was standing alone on a stage placed at the top of the hill in front of the school.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, high schools throughout the state were unable to host traditional graduation ceremonies. The design of the ceremony in Medford allowed for students and their families to remain in their vehicles, with only one person on stage at a time to deliver their speeches, which were played over a sound system to the parking lot as well as livestreamed on the radio. Students were able to walk to stage with their diploma in hand one at a time, as parents were able to caravan to the front of parking lot and snap pictures of their graduates.

Language arts teacher and Student Council advisor Rebecca Mohr delivered an emotional speech to the graduating class, calling on the novel “The Alcehmist” by Paulo Coelho for life lessons that she hopes each of her former students will take with them as they embark on the next chapters of their lives.

“My wish for each of you is that you will follow your passions and desires in your future,” Mohr said. “Your career should not be based on salary or status, but rather on the joy and fulfillment it brings you each and every day. So go to Thailand and save the elephants. Study graphic design and create the world’s next big video game. Become a teacher and change the lives of students. Whatever you do, follow your heart.”

Following the graduation ceremony, the graduates lined up behind the Medford Fire Department for a classic parade throughout the town. Students blew air horns, made Facebook live videos, and waved with delight and excitement at every member in their community. Many cars were decked out in decorations that ranged from car-sized graduation caps to balloons to photos of the graduate riding inside.

Prior to the parade, senior Mackenzie Paulson praised the variety of accomplishments from her peers, both as individuals and as combined group — including overcoming a strange end to the high school career.

“One thing I admire most about this class is that we never give up,” Paulson said. “I have watched all of you battle through painful injuries, heartbreaking losses, failed tests, and moments where all the odds seemed stacked against you, but you never gave in. I’ll say it again, this class is strong.”

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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