For the 15 students who graduated Midwest High School Thursday, the COVID-19 pandemic ruined what was supposed to be their last two months together before starting their lives.

It took away the ritual that is the Burning of the M. It took away their last chance at high school glory through spring sports.

It took their valuable time.

But, as Midwest Class of 2020 Valedictorian Sheridan Vaughn put it, the pandemic has also been a "lesson in perseverance,"

"To the pandemic of 2020, we thank you," Vaughn told the gathered crowd. "The Class of 2020 will never give up."

Graduation looked a bit different this year at Midwest High School. For a start, it was held outside on the football field. Families sat in squares painted on the grass to maintain social distancing. Students were seated several feet apart.

There was no handshake from school administrators when students got their diplomas.

Members of the Midwest Fire Department shot fireworks from a bluff overlooking the football field as graduates received their diplomas.

Jim Fulkerson, the commencement speaker and shop teacher at Midwest, told the graduating class that life will throw them curveballs — it's how they react.

Fulkerson said he became permanently disabled when he broke his back on the job. He sat around for years before deciding to get up. Fulkerson said he thought his path would take him into a career in mechanical engineering.

Then, while he was a student at Casper College, Fulkerson found himself as a guest in a CY Junior High classroom. He was hooked on teaching.

Fulkerson's path eventually led him to joining the faculty at Midwest.

The moral, Fulkerson said, is you don't always know where you will come out when life throws that curveball. Perhaps the same will be true for this class when the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.

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