Packers flip the tassel

Published 5:01am Saturday, June 8, 2013

Austin High School graduates 137th class

Camera flashes flickered in the dim light Friday night as red-robed students traced a circuit about Riverside Arena and gathered before the stage.

“I know that you are up to the challenge,” Superintendent David Krenz told the soon-to-be-graduates. “You will be the great leaders this country needs.”

The class of 2013 put the closing chapter on its Austin High School career at the ceremony, which drew about a thousand friends and family to watch. More than 250 red-robed students, part of the 137th AHS class, crossed the stage and picked up diplomas in a nearly packed arena.

“You have acquired a great deal of success this year,” AHS principal Brad Bergstrom told graduates.

Bergstrom advised the students to continue learning in their years ahead, to think outside the box and to never forget to be nice.

“It doesn’t take any more effort be polite, but it takes a whole lot of effort to restore a reputation,” he said.

Graduates were invited to check the journals placed under their chairs for a message from someone who had been impacted by their presence at school. Bergstrom let a moment pass in silence as they read.

“I’ve watched you in your classes, in the hallways, at your concerts,” Krenz said. “I appreciate the fact that I have been able to be part of the ride.”

Thirteen high-distinction students elected to serve as commencement speakers and address their peers in their final moments together. They gauged what the future might hold, and what life after high school, in the “real world,” would be like.

“We can be sure that there will be surprises in our future,” said speaker Courtney Bogle. “Having reached the real world, we don’t know what to expect.”

Nevertheless, students were confident about moving on, and knew to expect some pitfalls sprinkled in among the victories.

“What matters is learning from the bad and cherishing the good,” said speaker Helen Heimark.

The student speakers recalled their years together, from the homecoming dance to cheering on the boys basketball team at state. Along the way were memories of the good and bad, and the way each had allowed the students to bond.

Heimark commended the high-achieving athletes who she felt had not been given due recognition during the year.

“I want to say congratulations to all of you individuals who made it to state and were not recognized,” she said.

Several speakers took creative approaches to their speeches. Sydney Ogilvie gave a message composed almost entirely of spliced lyrics to popular songs, while Robert Sherman and Alexander Thorson thanked those responsible for their success: “Wikipedia and the makers of Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy.”

Despite their different approaches, the student speakers all had a common theme: The future is full of promise and opportunities.

“We need to learn to reach out and grow and expand our capabilities,” said speaker Christine Barinka. “Make your impact today, not tomorrow.”

Melissa Navoa echoed the sentiment.

“As long as we are passionate and intentional in our goals, we don’t have to be afraid to take risks,” Navoa said.

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