Carlton, Wrenshall graduations move back inside

After their senior years were severely altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, students at Carlton and Wrenshall gathered with their families for a final celebration.

Wrenshall graduates listen to one of the class speakers during commencement at Wrenshall High School on Friday, May 28, 2021. 19 students were in the graduating class of 2021. (Clint Austin /

The ceremonies at Carlton and Wrenshall high schools Friday, May 28, had all the hallmarks of traditional graduations.

Wrenshall graduates Mark Johnson (right) and Hailey Tauzell share a laugh before heading into the school commons area for the ceremony Friday, May 28, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /

There were smiles, inside jokes, hugs and even a few tears, but the graduation ceremonies at Carlton and Wrenshall looked far more familiar than they did a year ago.


Brooke Kent decorated her mortarboard for commencement at Wrenshall High School on Friday, May 28, 2021. (Clint Austin /

Carlton students were able to graduate in their gym, while in Wrenshall, people gathered in the school commons area because of renovations at the school’s gym.

Jeff Hermann (left) takes a photo of Carlton graduates Kristian Hermann (far right) and Colin Emerson before the ceremony Friday, May 28, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /

It stood in stark contrast to services in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many schools had drive-through ceremonies, or in-person attendance was severely limited.

Wrenshall’s graduation was small enough, with just 19 graduates, to conduct the service without masks or too much social distancing.

Zeke Rousseau-Sheff speaks during commencement at Wrenshall High School on Friday, May 28, 2021. (Clint Austin /


In Carlton, with 32 graduates, there was still plenty of caution. A couple students were forced to attend remotely because of a potential COVID-19 exposure, Superintendent John Engstrom said. Families and guests of graduates had assigned, socially distanced seating.

Carlton's Aja Bell-Bey smiles before entering the gym for graduation Friday, May 28, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /

During her remarks at the graduation, Wrenshall Superintendent Kim Belcastro said it has been tough with students at the school spending most of the 2020-21 school year in distance learning, but it was great to gather one final time as a group before they move on with the next stage of their lives.


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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