It was a perfect night in a lot of ways and different. A lot of the anxiety of the past couple years was missing, replaced by a subdued sense of relief and quiet optimism. And something else, fair or not, there was a sense of maturity about this graduating class, like they had been forced to grow up a little quicker. Of course they had.
A packed gymnasium that overflowed into the neighboring auditorium with a live view big screen welcomed the 210 members of the New Richmond High School Class of 2022 Friday night.
It was a no frills ceremony instead featuring an almost intimate conversation between class President Olivia Dunlap, the class’s 10 Valedictorians and their classmates. While reflecting on their last 13 years of learning, laughing and growing up together, the speakers touched on themes of selflessness, commitment, resilience and gratitude. The beauty of it was, the rest of us got to listen.
Here are a few of the more memorable moments from Friday night’s commencement ceremony in New Richmond.
Rhea Warner and Jaclyn Andersen tackled all 13 years of schooling for the Class of 2022 highlighting some of the more impactful experiences including braces, recess, field trips, wardrobe decisions, dodgeball, Dylan Prozinga and Jose Ultima dance challenge, Chomp the Carrot’s scare factor, driver’s ed, the pool under the gymnasium at the high school (ask Natalie) and COVID-19.
“Now as for the class of 2022, as you can tell, we’ve made a lot of lemonade these past four years. So we wanted to say congratulations for not giving up as the pandemic continued to give us more and more lemons even though our pitcher was full. As we leave this gymnasium in the direction of our future and encounter countless lemos along the way to achieving our goals, remember to make the best of each moment and always make lemonade.” – Rhea Warner.
Kaylin Trosen paid tribute to three core themes central to the Strive scholarship program: keep pushing, ask for help and be thankful.
“A wise teacher of mine once told me, ‘Strength comes from asking for help.’ It’s easier to get through hard times when we share our burdens with someone, when we have a shoulder to lean on or even a different perspective on the situation. We are not weak when we ask for help. We are strong. My goal for us is to remember to keep pushing through, ask for help and always, always be thankful for the people that surround you and the life that you have been given.” – Kaylin Trosen
Olivia Burns visited Kurt Vonnegut’s nightmare before offering some tips for taking charge of your life.
“Kurt Vonnegut said, ‘True terror is when you wake up one morning and you discover your high shcool class is running the country.’ What do you say class, does that scare you? A little, but luckily that morning is not tomorrow. It's not like we’re driving straight from this stage to the oval office. We have time, thank goodness, but that morning will come and the question is what are you going to do in the meantime?” – Olivia Burns
Kaisa Engstrom addressed the power of selfless actions recognized by principal Wissink’s Tiger Tuesday Awards and then handed out a Tiger.
“The second Tiger Tuesday Award is given on behalf of my fellow valedictorians and the Class of 2022. This award recognizes the parental figures and families for endlessly supporting us since the time when we were small. We would like to thank you for drying our tears and sharing our smiles, for being there in all aspects of our lives and supporting us in our future endeavors as well.”
“You are one of a kind. There has been no one like you before this and there will be no one like you after this. Figure out what your unique skills, talents, interests and passions are. Give it all you’ve got to be your best everyday. Be strong and courageous. Step up when times are tough. Stand up for what is right. Show up for those who need your help. And never, ever give up. Use what is special about you to make a difference at work, in your family and your community.” – Principal Wissink
Hattie Harrold was the last valedictorian to speak. She encouraged her classmates to see graduation, receiving your diploma as the bridge moment between who you are now and who you want to become someday.
“Like Kaisa said, positive change doesn’t have to come from huge heroic acts. It can come simply from who we are. So who do you want to be? If you want to be compassionate, patient or selfless in the future, start practicing now. If you want to be resilient, fearless and reliable, start now because the switch won’t automatically flip and brighten our lives the moment we enter college, the workforce or the military. We have to comiott to closing the gap between who we are now and who we want to be.” – Hattie Harrold
Principle Wissink shared his advice with the graduates just before caps filled the air and dreams disappeared into the night.