Hats off for Spring Lake Park High School graduates

Three-hundred-and-eight students graduated from Spring Lake Park High School Friday, May 30, at Panther Stadium.

Social studies teacher Ben Poupard takes a selfie with his student advisees before graduation. Photos by Olivia Koester

Social studies teacher Ben Poupard takes a selfie with his student advisees before graduation. Photos by Olivia Koester

A sea of blue-robed students snaked across the track and field as the band provided their soundtrack: “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Once everyone was seated, Principal Jane Stevenson welcomed the class of 2014 and their friends and family.

Stevenson made an analogy between students’ lives and stories. The analogy became the evening’s motif, picked up by fellow speakers.

Students added new characters to their stories in high school: new friends, coaches, teachers, bosses, girlfriends, boyfriends and more, Stevenson said. “Choose the characters of your next chapters wisely,” she said.

She fully expects the class of 2014 to have some unexpected plot twists. After all, “it’s not a good story without some conflict and some drama,” she said.

With a nod to Stevenson, student speaker Madisen Dempsey agreed that her class is beginning a new chapter, but she shied away from the idea that commencement itself is a story just yet.

“‘This moment will just be another story someday,’” Dempsey said, quoting Stephen Chbosky’s novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” But it isn’t yet. Right now, it’s happening, she said.

In a similar vein, student speaker Vi Nguyen closed her remarks with a variation of “We did it!” – “We lived it.”

The third and final student speaker, Joseph Shoulak, described his path to graduation, which was somewhat different from his classmates. Shoulak said that he was graduating in the bottom third of his class, though he was recently named a Minnesota Scholar of Distinction and has published a math paper. He has a different learning style, and the Lighthouse School helped him find success. “I hope we can all reach our full potential,” he said in his address.

Honoring the seniors, class counselor Brooke Magid Hart invited students to stand and remain standing if they had participated in any type of activity in high school, if they enrolled in a class that they knew would challenge them, if they made a new friend in high school, if they felt it was an accomplishment to receive their diploma and more. By the end of her list, all of the students were on their feet.

Magid Hart was proud to announce that 97 percent of the class has plans to further their education either in two- or four-year colleges or by enlisting in the military.

The day isn’t special for graduates alone; their friends and family can take great pride in their accomplishments, speakers agreed.

“Without the guidance, support and occasional push you have provided, these graduates would not be positioned as they are, prepared to take their first successful steps beyond high school,” Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg said, looking beyond the graduates to the packed bleachers.

He concluded his remarks with three thoughts he shares with graduating seniors annually: “Be humble and curious; demonstrate personal integrity by giving your best effort; and be appreciative.”

From there, school board members presented students with their diplomas, and Stevenson instructed students to turn around and send their mortarboards sailing.

Olivia Koester is at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com

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