CLC to host virtual commencement ceremonies

“We are proud of our students and we need to celebrate them,” Central Lakes College President Hara Charlier said.

CLC sign
The Central Lakes College parking lot is quiet as the Brainerd campus as it is closed in response to COVID-19. CLC announced Wednesday, April 22, it will hosty virtual commencement events as students and staff may not be at the campuses. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch

Central Lakes College announced Wednesday, April 22, it will host virtual spring commencement ceremonies for its graduating students as the Brainerd and Staples campuses are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the May 13-14, 2020 Central Lakes College commencement events will be held virtually and not on our campuses,” the college posted on its website. “The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff is our number one priority, and the virtual format will allow everyone to participate without any health risk. ... Those who would rather walk across the stage in a physical ceremony may wait and participate in the next one that’s scheduled.”

CLC President Hara Charlier said the past few months have been an extremely challenging time for students, staff and faculty as decisions are made on moving forward.

“We are proud of our students and we need to celebrate them,” Charlier said. “Graduation is our favorite time of the year. We sent out a survey and within 24 hours we had hundreds of students responding. They overwhelmingly wanted to have a virtual commencement ceremony.”

The college asked its 2020 graduating students in the poll if they would be interested in participating in an event hosted in an alternative format, as large gatherings are not allowed. Most of the graduating seniors — 79% of them — said they would like to participate in an alternative format.


Virtual events

The college will host individualized virtual events, tailored to celebrate each student group via a video feed at the following scheduled dates and times:

  • 7 p.m. May 13 at the Staples campus.

  • 6 p.m. May 14 at the Brainerd campus for the career and technical students.

  • 7 p.m. May 14 at the Brainerd campus for the liberal arts, includes nursing registered nurse program.

The events will closely follow the format of a typical commencement ceremony at CLC:

  • Welcome and remarks by Charlier.

  • Greetings and congratulations by the Minnesota State System chancellor.

  • Address by student senate president/student honors speaker.

  • Recognition of graduates with honors.

  • Conferring of degrees.

  • Presentation of the CLC Class of 2020. A virtual “walk” across the stage will be done through submitted photos and individual information.

  • Faculty and staff congratulate the graduates.

  • Ceremony conclusion.

Charlier said the ceremonies will be about 45-60 minutes in length and will be available through a video feed on the CLC website and Facebook page. Details are still being worked out on how the ceremonies will work — but every student will be recognized. There may be up to 900 graduating students, but typically about half participate in the graduation ceremony. Students who want to participate must complete a form by Wednesday, April 29, which may be found online at .

Celebrating a milestone

The college also created commencement care packages for students who have applied for graduation and have indicated they would like to participate in the 2020 ceremony. The packages were shipped Wednesday and include a cap and tassel, diploma cover and honor cord if the student earned one.

“This won’t be perfect, but it will be special,” Charlier said of the virtual ceremonies. “We will finish spring on time and we will be strong. Most of our students are on track to graduate. Students in the technical programs will have to do some hands-on work this summer, but our policy is those students finishing in the summer will walk in the commencement.

“I would like our students to remember that they really weathered a storm this year and they really should come out and celebrate. We are here to thank them and will be truly meaningful.”

CLC students have already filled out the forms.

There are also CLC students taking a double hit this spring when looking at graduation ceremonies. Shayla Makowski Budrow is expected to graduate with the Class of 2020 at Brainerd High School this spring, as well as earn her associates of art degree from CLC in Brainerd.


“I am very disappointed that I can’t walk of course, and I’m also so scared on if I will be able to walk down for the high school graduation,” Makowski Budrow said. “At least I may be able to walk one way or another.”

BHS officials have not yet made a decision on how they will do the graduation ceremony.

Makowski Budrow is pleased the college is hosting a virtual ceremony, as other colleges in the state have canceled their ceremonies altogether.

“It’s a great thing for CLC to offer the 2020 graduates, even if it’s not in person,” she said. “There was a lot of thought put into it and there were so many ideas thrown on the table as to how to have a ceremony without us all being together. Of course, the ideal situation would be for us all being together to celebrate as a class, but it is not possible.”

Makowski Budrow said maybe something magical would happen and things rapidly change and CLC could have an in-person ceremony. She said there is always hope.

Makowski Budrow, who serves as the CLC Brainerd Student Senate president, said she has to start writing her speech for the commencement ceremonies.

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at or 218-855-5851. Follow me at on Twitter.

Shayla Makowski Budrow
Shayla Makowski-Budrow will graduate this spring from Brainerd High School and earn her associates of art degree from Central Lakes College in Brainerd. Makowski-Budrow is preparing to partake in a virtual commencement at CLC, where she is expected to speak as the CLC Brainerd Student Senate president. Submitted Photo

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