BENA -- Intermittent rain -- and a pandemic -- could not dim the spirits of six face mask-clad graduates as they processed onto the stage in front of Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School Thursday night.

Graduates process toward the stage during Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig's drive-in graduation ceremony on Thursday. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)
Graduates process toward the stage during Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig's drive-in graduation ceremony on Thursday. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

Graduates followed the traditional steps of crossing the stage and moving their tassels from right to left, while their loved ones looked on in a-less-than-traditional way.

Students picked up their diplomas from a table and then came forward to pose for pictures in front of the cars holding their supportive family members. As the graduates shuffled through, the cars were swapped out as well.

Graduates' friends and family stand on the curb to take pictures during Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig's drive-in graduation ceremony on Thursday. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)
Graduates' friends and family stand on the curb to take pictures during Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig's drive-in graduation ceremony on Thursday. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

Valedictorian Chelsey Ducheneaux spoke about the pandemic’s effect on the students’ senior experiences.

“Who knew March 11, 2020, would be the last day we’d spend here?” she said. “The hard work paid off though. We are still here getting a chance to celebrate our biggest high school achievement.”

Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig graduates sit on stage during the drive-in graduation ceremony on Thursday. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)
Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig graduates sit on stage during the drive-in graduation ceremony on Thursday. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig held its graduation ceremony later than usual this year in hopes of being able to hold a commencement ceremony inside in person, one teacher explained.

The graduates elected to hold a moment of silence for Black Lives Matter, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and two classmates who had died that would have graduated in 2020.

The students led a parade through Cass Lake after the ceremony.