Diploma pickup caps off high school for 2020 BHS grads

"They were born to be historic."

Twin graduates Jada Borders (right) and Mitchell Borders collect their swag bags full of fun items after receiving their diplomas and having photos taken Wednesday, June 3, at Brainerd High School's South Campus. Jada just found out that her bag contained a $100 bill, one of five randomly put into the bags handed out by the Grad Blast committee. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Graduates in the Brainerd High School class of 2020 put on their caps and gowns for likely the last time as they picked up their diplomas and got in one final photo session.

“It feels really surreal, like it doesn’t feel like it’s real yet,” Magdalene Anderson said after holding up her diploma and showing off her decorated cap for a photo op with festive balloons Wednesday, June 3, at BHS south campus.

“I guess it hasn’t hit me fully yet,” Anderson added. “Like, this is graduation.”

While Anderson took in the moment, Karlie Ray was glad to be able to pick up her diploma in person after the unconventional end to her senior year.

“I think it’s cool that we’re still getting them and able to be here and take pictures and stuff,” Ray said. “It’s really unique. We haven’t really ever done that before in this way.”


But getting that diploma was still a big moment.

“It’s years of dedication that I’ve spent my life working towards,” graduate Sean Paulus said. “And even though it’s not the best circumstances to receive it, it still means a lot.”

School board members greeted students and parents as they pulled up outside the building Wednesday and proceeded to collect any end-of-the-year awards they may have earned and their swag bags complete with t-shirts, gift cards and other goodies courtesy of the Grad Blast committee. Five lucky students, like Jada Borders, got an extra special treat with a $100 bill. The t-shirts appropriately read: “Warriors: Born to Make History,” commemorating the class of students born right before 9/11 and graduating amidst a global pandemic.

“They were born to be historic,” Principal Andrea Rusk said.

GALLERY: Diploma Pickup Gallery
They made history as the first BHS class to take a spin around Brainerd International Raceway in decorated cars in lieu of an in-person ceremony due to COVID-19 concerns. It wasn’t the ideal celebration, but it worked out.

“At first I was a little skeptical, but I actually ended up liking it a lot,” Jada Borders said, as her twin brother Mitchell Borders nodded in agreement.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Mitchell added. “But I turned out to like it.”


For Anderson, the BIR event exceeded expectations.

“It was amazing,” she said. “It’s like everything I could have wanted. It was way better than the normal graduation.”

Ray was glad to be the first class of graduates to take part in an experience like that and hopes it may continue in future years, pandemic or not.

Now, with final cap and gown photos taken and diplomas in hand, the class of 2020 is looking to the future.

Senior Sean Paulus gets his photo taken with his family Wednesday, June 3, when graduates could pick up their diplomas at Brainerd High School's South Campus. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

For Zachary Struffert, it’s somewhat scary, as he still wobbles back and forth on his future plans — military or college?

“I’m excited to start a new chapter,” he added, no matter which way he decides to go.


Sophie Robinson shares that excitement.

“I had four good years here, and I’m ready to continue my education,” she said, noting her final hockey season is a favorite memory she’ll carry on.

Mitchell Borders said he hopes he can take his next steps and do as well as he did in high school to form lasting relationships and have fun.

“And learn some stuff,” Jada chimed in.

Magdalene Anderson gets her photo taken Wednesday, June 3, when graduating seniors could pick up their diplomas at Brainerd High School's South Campus. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

After all the uncertainty the class of 2020 faced at the end of their high school careers, and all the challenges they were forced to endure, the historic group of young adults are just beginning to make their ways in the world.

“We’re still going forward,” Paulus said.


THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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