Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan


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First Graduation, Second Education: 2020 High School Graduates & the WSU Class of 2024

Heidi Hanson
Many students of the WSU graduating class of 2024 are about to experience their first graduation ceremony ever, as many were the high school graduation class of 2020. Students are excited to finally get the chance to walk across the stage and embark onto the next stage of their lives.

Four years after the year that changed everything, the high school class of 2020 is preparing to graduate college in just a few short weeks; many in Winona State University’s class of 2024 finally get the graduation ceremony they have been wanting since everything was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many students in the high school graduating class of 2020 didn’t experience a traditional graduation ceremony like in years prior; students found themselves in car parades and virtual graduation ceremonies where they watched their names go across the screen from their living room couches.

Now, four years later, 2020 graduates are looking forward to getting to wear their caps and gowns for real this time. Caps are on, masks are off, and the excitement is booming.

Madie Adkins, a movement science major graduating this Spring, discussed the lack of closure she and other graduates felt back during the 2020 high school graduation months.

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“It felt like I didn’t get closure on my high school years; everything felt open-ended,” Adkins said. “I think I felt more timid and shy during my first couple weeks of college than what I would have felt if I did get to finish my high school years in person and have a graduation.”

Bri Carman, also a movement science major, has a graduation ceremony in the month of July in 2020 and was only allowed two family members as attendees. This was a common “compromise” in the year of 2020, which was very heartbreaking for students with parents, siblings, grandparents and friends who wanted to be able to attend and see their loved one walk across the stage

“Graduation in 2020 was so hard,” Carman said. “I didn’t get all the ‘lasts’ such as a prom, a senior prank and the worst one: not having a spring sports season. It was hard as it was a huge part of my life.”

Although graduation day can seem like an event only based on tradition, it has shown to be a very important aspect of the end of both high school and college careers. The four years of high school are a huge time for academic, social and personal growth and not being able to be recognized for these accomplishments properly showed to be devastating and a very dark time for many 2020 graduates.

Brenna Knutson, a communication arts and literature teaching (CALT) major who is now student teaching, was a 2019 high school graduate and is now the WSU class of 2024. Knutson reflected on the importance of graduation ceremonies when ending a four-plus year long journey.

“To me, the importance of a graduation ceremony is to celebrate everything it has taken to get to this point of success,” Knutson said. “College isn’t an easy thing, so for me, commencement isn’t just going to be celebrating the end of college or the end of student teaching–It is going to be a celebration of my journey at WSU and the fact that I made it through adversity and pushed myself to be successful.”

Brinna Barlow, also a CALT major and student teacher, echoed this sentiment when reflecting on the importance of a graduation ceremony in general.

“A graduation ceremony is important because it provides closure to students after four (or more) long years of hard work,” Barlow stated. “It gives students the celebration they deserve after making it through their degrees.”

Four years seems like a long period of time to go to classes, attend meetings and go through all of the very big and very little changes that come with a college career; however, these four years in college are known to go by very quickly. A lot can happen in just four years, and without the proper closure to the approximate 1,300 days (including summer), students can feel like their time is unfinished.

Hannah Oakes, a 2020 high school graduate and fourth-year Nursing major, discussed the closure a graduation ceremony can provide after four long years of many life changes and events.

“I think the importance of a graduation ceremony is it being those final steps to completing another chapter in your life,” Oakes said. “All the late-night study sessions, mental breakdowns, and 2AM runs to Kwik Trip all seem to be worth it as you’re walking across that stage.”

Another element of graduation ceremonies is seeing all of the mentors and instructors that helped push students to succeed throughout the four years of college classes, exams, meetings, jobs and tough times.

“Another thing I love about attending commencement is seeing professors dressed up to celebrate their students’ achievements,” Knutson stated. “The professors in the English department have been instrumental in my success; it’ll be really cool to get to celebrate this with them.”

Not having a graduation at the end of high school is making this year’s graduation ceremony all the more exciting for students who graduated in 2020. Being able to walk across the stage, although momentary, is an opportunity to reflect on all of the accomplishments made before and during college.

“Being a 2020 high school graduate is making this one more special to me in more ways than one,” Oakes stated. “I feel as though this experience has made me work harder knowing that this is the only graduation I will have, and that even though it was challenging, I have become stronger through the experience.”

Students graduating this year are looking forward to changing to the world one step at a time when they embark into their life-long careers. Winona State has helped create a new generation of future nurses, teachers, athletic trainers, therapists, entrepreneurs, journalists and students chasing their dreams of fulfilling their purposes and improving our world.

As for current undergraduate students at Winona State who have a couple years until graduation, now is the time to make the most of it.

“To any underclassmen, enjoy everything while you can!” Carman said. “Join the club, do the research, change your major, etc.; it goes by way faster than you think.”

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About the Contributor
Heidi Hanson
Heidi Hanson, Features Editor

Heidi Hanson (she/her/hers) is the Features Editor for the Winonan as of fall 2022. She joined the Winonan during her first semester at WSU, back in fall of 2021. Hanson is currently a third year at Winona State University, majoring in Communication Arts and Literature Teaching with a minor in Communication Studies Teaching.

Besides writing for the Winonan, Hanson is a Resident Assistant at the East Lake Apartments and is a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH). She also works as a research assistant for the Communications Department.

For fun, Hanson enjoys reading mystery novels, watching horror movies, and enjoying music from all genres. She also enjoys journaling and exploring the surrounding area of Winona.

Hanson hopes to be a middle or high school English teacher after graduation to spread her love of literature and provide a safe space for future students who go through her English Literature classroom. Before that, however, she hopes to have a fulfilled four years at WSU and grow through work and social experiences.

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