Volunteers, students and families said they were excited to attend a drive-thru event Saturday, May 9 for Cloquet High School seniors to receive their caps and gowns.
Music blared across the high school parking lots as volunteers organized by senior advisors Shelley Robideaux and Brenda Gigliotti excitedly set up their areas and presented items as seniors drove by in their vehicles. All volunteers wore face masks and gloves.
Michele Walsh helped create a Facebook page, We Support the Class of 2020, looking for donations of cash, gift cards and prizes for the graduates She said normally local businesses donate for the All Night Grad party.
Walsh's niece is a senior, so Walsh volunteered to help out on the All Night Grad party committee. More than 175 individuals and businesses contributed over $10,000 in gift cards and prizes. Each student received a bag with $35 worth of gift cards, a T-shirt, travel cup and other tropical-themed items.
“I think everyone involved was excited,” Walsh said. “Community members, businesses, relatives and parents donated well beyond what we had hoped for.”
The school district hired B&B Market of Cloquet to offer each senior a burger or brat, chips and water at the end of the drive-thru. Cloquet High School Principal Steve Battaglia said the senior class activity fund paid for food and refreshments, which took the place of a class picnic. He estimated the cost to be around $1,000.
Senior parent Tonia Meyers said she appreciated the opportunity to attend the event with family members, even if they needed to stay in their own vehicles next to each other.
Meyers' daughter, Rylie Doherty, was excited to attend. Doherty and her dog rode through the line in a pickup truck decorated with larger-than-life photo cutouts of Doherty's face.
“I think the kids need this. It feels good to do something normal,” Meyers said.
Amanda Kolenda said she was happy her relatives were able to attend the event. She also appreciated how many families decorated their vehicles to celebrate the senior class of 2020.
“I’m super excited,” Kolenda said.
After nearly two months of distance learning, senior Tea Kilpatrick said she appreciated saying hello to teachers and school staff members.
“I thought it was really fun and nice to see the teachers,” she said.
Meyers said she is happy grandparents and other relatives and friends were welcome at the event, since attendance at the graduation ceremony will be limited. For commencement, each senior will be allowed one ticket for one car. Parents who are not together get two tickets.
Battaglia said he felt great about the community turnout.
“It was phenomenal — 90% of our graduating seniors attended. Parent and family support was great and a large number of our teachers, paras and coaches attended, as well," he said.