RED LAKE – Like many graduates, Gerika Kingbird is not experiencing the senior year she had planned, but she is making the best of it and has a laundry list of accomplishments.

She is graduating as the valedictorian of the Red Lake High School Class of 2020.

Kingbird is a three-sport athlete — volleyball, basketball and softball — and athletics fill up most of her free time, she said.

In March, her basketball season ended abruptly, ending her high school basketball career unceremoniously. The Lady Warriors were defeated in the state quarterfinals and should have continued tournament play, but the Minnesota State High School League announced post-game that all consolation games had been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

“It was really sad, we didn’t expect it. We were just in the locker room, after the game (when it was announced),” she said. “I was really sad that it ended like that.”

Despite this, making it to the state tournament remains one of the best memories of her senior year, regardless of its premature ending, she said.

“Not being able to be with my friends the rest of the year and not being able to play softball. That’s hard,” she said of the remainder of her senior year.

Kingbird recently signed a letter of intent to continue her basketball career for United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, N.D., where she received an athletic scholarship.

There she will earn an associate’s degree at UTTC and then continue her schooling in order to become a dentist. She hopes to come back to Red Lake to work as a dentist in the future.

“I plan on pursuing a career in dentistry. There’s not many Native American dentists, so I want to be one of them, and come back (to Red Lake) to work here,” Kingbird said.

Her proudest accomplishments of her high school career were making it to state and achieving academic success as the top GPA in her class.

Much of her motivation stems from her love for her family. “They support me and they are always there for me,” she said. “I’m going to miss all of them.”

In lieu of a traditional commencement ceremony, Kingbird and her classmates will be celebrated at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 23, in front of the Red Lake Secondary Complex. Students and their immediate families are limited to one car. Cars will be lined up and drive to the front of the school, the student will step out of the car, pick up the diploma cover from the table, and hop back in the car.