RED LAKE -- Thirteen graduates at Red Lake Nation College will be honored in an unconventional way -- old-school drive-in movie theater-style.

According to an announcement earlier this week, despite the pandemic, social distancing requirements, and tribal medical martial law, spring commencement at Red Lake Nation College will still go on as scheduled at 8 p.m. on May 21, with graduates remaining in their cars until their names are called to accept their diploma on stage.

This plan seems to align with the guidelines for graduation ceremonies released by the Minnesota Department of Health Friday morning, which recommended if ceremonies were to be held in-person, they were to be done in cars or in a drive-by fashion.

“Most colleges and larger high schools have hundreds, or even thousands of graduates, so many have been forced to cancel their graduation ceremonies because of the pandemic,” said Red Lake Nation College President Dan King. “However, we are a small, family college with only thirteen graduates. We just had to figure out a way to make this ceremony happen.”

"Over 80% of RLNC students are first-generation college students," King said. “They have already overcome so many obstacles just to attend college, we did not want to deprive them of this major milestone.”

A stage will be erected in front of the college for graduates to receive their diplomas. Family and friends will park in the lot in front of the stage and remain in the comfort and safety of their own vehicles. Each graduate will have a reserved parking spot in the front row and will stay in their vehicle until their name is called. Onlookers will be encouraged to honk their approval as each graduate picks up their degree and crosses the stage with no other students or staff nearby.

The entire drive-in commencement celebration will be livestreamed on RLNC’s Facebook page and the rlnc.education website. The ceremony will be recorded from both stationary and aerial drone video cameras and shown on 15-foot screens flanking the stage. The photos and recordings will be made available to students free of charge, so there will be no need for visitors to leave their vehicles. KKBJ 103.7 FM out of Bemidji will provide live coverage, so everyone can also listen to the event on their car radios.

The event will include two local rappers, Thomas X and Kaboose, who will perform from a separate stage and serve as entertainers and hosts for the event. Movie-type refreshments -- popcorn, candy and soft drinks -- will be provided by masked and gloved staff, for guests to enjoy during the celebration.