Prior Lake High School and Bridges Area Learning Center graduated 754 seniors at Dan Patch Stadium on Friday, June 11 at 7 p.m. — the first graduation ceremony the school has held in person since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Students and faculty alike used the pandemic to comment on the resilience and maturity of the graduating class of 2021.

“Look at this stadium, this is the largest crowd most of us have been in, in almost a year and a half,” Superintendent Teri Staloch said to a crowd of cheering spectators. “We are here to celebrate you and you have earned it. You are together as the Class of 2021 in person celebrating your graduation and we are so proud of you.”

Student Council President Abigail Haferman said she is hopeful for the future after facing unique challenges and coming out on top during the past year.

“Spring break trips were postponed, prom was canceled — we couldn’t see each other. There were disappointments for everyone involved. This senior class was no exception,” said Haferman, who will be attending the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in the fall. “While we may have missed out on football games and dances and other senior traditions, we had the time and space to grow into ourselves. We adapted to every situation. These unique experiences developed our resilience, this makes me hopeful for our future.”

Nana Sam-Brew, student council vice president, said during her commencement address that the experience of the past year has prepared the Class of 2021 to go out into the world.

“We lost so much in the blink of an eye, not being able to process everything that was hitting us all at once. But with the support of everyone, I’m proud to say we made it through the year, we did it,” said Sam-Brew, who will be attending Loyola University in Chicago.

“Senior year was a year of healing and understanding that life keeps treading,” she added. “Class of 2021, you didn’t let this pandemic define you, you took a different perspective and used your resilience to fight our many challenges this year. You are more prepared for the next stage of your life then you believe you are.”