BEMIDJI -- When Lexi Fuglestad got her first taste of working in the medical field during her junior year of high school, she thought to herself: “‘Yeah, I could do this the rest of my life.”

Now, five years later, she is graduating with her nursing degree from Bemidji State University and moving on to work in an emergency room in Duluth.

Fuglestad hails from Barnum Minn., -- a town with a large lumberjack statue -- and moved to Bemidji -- a town with a large lumberjack statue -- to study nursing in 2016.

Her desire to go into nursing was sparked after she started working as a Certified Nursing Assistant in her junior year of high school.

She first visited BSU during an October snowstorm and thought she could never go to school in this ‘tundra’ but after meeting BSU’s nursing faculty, she knew it was the school for her.

“They’re just the nicest people ever and after talking to them I just felt great,” she said.

During her time at BSU, Fuglestad has received multiple academic honors and was elected as the president of the student nursing association.

Her proudest accomplishment was being selected to receive the Loris Westrom Nursing Scholarship, she said.

“I actually got to meet (Loris Westrom) at the scholarship breakfast,” Fuglestad said. “Being able to sit down and meet with her and thank her for all her help and stuff, it was so cool.”

Fuglestad is frustrated with the impact that COVID-19 has had on her senior year, but is excited to get out into the medical field to help the fight.

Transitioning into a nursing career can be tough without a global health crisis, Fuglestad explained, but during a pandemic, it’s even tougher.

“Of your entire nursing career, our teachers let us know, ‘Yeah, the first year is going to be the hardest, it’s going to be really hard while you’re getting your feet under you,’” she said. “So adding a pandemic on top of all that is tough. Most of us are very eager to get out there, but also very nervous.”

Fuglestad said since her nursing cohort took nearly all of their classes together, they became particularly close, and that not being able to say goodbye to them has been one of the most difficult aspects of the COVID-19 closures.

“It’s been the same 60 of us for four years,” she explained, “so you get very close to them.”

Commencement being canceled ‘stung the worst of all,’ Fuglestad added.

“It kind of stinks, being a senior, you kind of have this picture in your head of what your graduation is going to look like,” she said.

In lieu of an in-person commencement, BSU announced Wednesday that a virtual celebration will be held via Zoom at 5 p.m. on May 8.

The event is open to all students, families and university representatives and will include messages from President Faith Hensrud, Acting Provost Allen Bedford, Student Body President Matthew Sauser, academic deans and more. A link to the Zoom event can be found on the BSU website.

Graduation gift packages will also be sent to seniors which will include a cap, tassel and other gifts, along with separate packages containing honors medallions and cords, according to the BSU bookstore.