Barnum High School graduates highlight flexibility during ceremony

A technical glitch prior to graduation allowed the Bomber band to show off its ability to adapt one final time in the 2020-2021 school year.

Barnum seniors (from right) Riki Mae Duevel, Kelly Crump and Garrett Coughlin lead their classmates into the gym during the graduation ceremony Friday, June 4, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /

After a few laughs in the Barnum High School media center, senior class adviser Kari Johnson started a roll call to get the 50 graduating seniors in line for the ceremony Friday, June 4.

As the students lined up in the hall to march into the gym, some joked about the roller coaster year they’ve had. Others dabbed tears out of their eyes, but 2021 had one more surprise in store.

The Bomber band had set up to play in the school auditorium and a sound system was set up to pipe the music into the gym. Just as the graduates were about to enter the gym, a problem caused the sound system to go down, forcing the band to adapt to the problem on the fly.

"Alright everybody, grab your music and your stands and let's move into the commons area,” band director Jeff Gilbertson said.


Thomas Koski (left) and Kellen Falter play "Pomp and Circumstance" in the Barnum school commons area Friday, June 4, 2021. The band was forced to move their performance from the auditorium after a technical glitch caused the sound system to go down. (Jamey Malcomb /

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The gym doors opened, and the band played “Pomp and Circumstance” for the graduates' procession into the ceremony.

Oliver Swimeley, one of the student speakers, highlighted the challenges of distance learning — periodic for some, all year for others — and the lessons he learned about adapting to the unexpected and continuing to thrive, something the school band showed off as the ceremony began.

Oliver Swimeley (left) and Ellie Varo share a laugh before graduation in the Barnum High School media center Friday, June 4, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /

Superintendent Mike McNulty was proud of the ceremony organized by high school principal Gregg Campbell and the staff, as well as their work throughout the school year.


“I think they did a great job,” McNulty said. “They just kept adjusting and stayed with it. It was great to get up there and actually see the kids. When you look at the last 15 months, we really haven’t gotten to see many people. Even during the school year, they’ve pretty much been masked the whole time, so you don’t get to really see them ... It was great to be out there, and I hope they enjoyed it.”

Barnum senior Madisen Warnygowa waits with classmates before entering the gym for graduation Friday, June 4, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /

Anson Vargo said his senior year was a “blast” despite having to quarantine twice for two weeks each time. After the way the 2020 school year ended, he was just happy to be with his friends during this special moment.

“I’m just really glad that we’re all here,” Vargo said. “Last year, there was really a big graduation, and I’m just really happy that we’re all here and we can have everyone actually see graduation. That’s a really awesome deal.”

Barnum senior Anson Vargo waits outside the school gym for the graduation ceremony to begin Friday, June 4, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /


Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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