Written by Annie Lindgren, for publication in North Forty News

With the 2020 Graduates unable to have their graduation ceremonies, a group of Wellington community members and parents, came together to help celebrate graduates in other ways. They made banners that now hang proudly along Cleveland Avenue, in the heart of downtown Wellington.

On June 23, six banners, displaying three graduates per side, with 36 graduates in total, were installed and will remain up for 30 days. Graduates came from several area schools and colleges, with outreach done via social media and contacting school Principals.

Many local businesses came together to provide the resources needed to make this happen affordably. For families who could not afford the cost, sponsors were available to assist financially. The businesses do not wish to be recognized because it was done out of support rather than for marketing. “We came together as a community and stepped up for Wellington to honor our graduates,” said Jami Sterkel, the ringleader for these efforts.

Trustee Ashley Macdonald helped move this project along quickly through the various obstacles and red tape. “These banners are an opportunity for graduates to walk with their class down Main Street, not with their family, but with their community as a whole. It was one small thing we can do to make it better.” Ashley is also raising funds for graduate scholarships through the Wellington Americana Legacy Foundation.

Renee Fuller, mother of graduate Sidney Starzel shared their story: “By the town allowing us to purchase the banners and display them, it shows what a wonderful community we live in. The students had everything change in one day, without realizing it. They could not finish their senior year, finish their sports seasons, go to their last prom, say goodbye to their friends and teachers, or traditionally celebrate their graduations. The banners help the kids in the community feel recognized and supported. Sidney went from wanting to attend college in Texas to staying local and going to LCCC, mostly due to COVID-19 and the unknown of what next year will look like.”

Tabby Road Animal Hospital got a banner to celebrate their employee graduate, Mike Tammen. Heather and Chad Zadina shared their story: “We want to celebrate Mike because he is one of those extraordinary, rare, and genuine people who adds value to the lives of everyone who knows him. Mike graduated from CSU with a Bachelors in Zoology, overcoming many obstacles, and working very hard to achieve his goals. We are so proud of him and feel very fortunate to have him on our Tabby Road team and have him as a friend in our personal lives. We know he will excel at whatever he puts his mind to. With his recent major promotion at the clinic and his current focus on holistic treatments and animal massage, we hope his future is at Tabby Road!”

Wellington Mayor Troy Hamman shared the following message: “To our Wellington graduating senior class of 2020. It is my distinct pleasure to express my sincere congratulations and wish you the best as you now head off to pursue your next experiences in life. Whether it be career-oriented, further education, or military and civilian service, you are more than ready for the challenge. You have overcome and sacrificed where others have not to get here. Know that during the unprecedented times and circumstances that surround us, you are not forgotten. Congratulations, Wellington Seniors of 2020. WE lift you up!!!”