BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN Sunday afternoon, 179 Delano High School seniors walked into the Tiger Activity Center. After listening to a number of speakers and a variety of music, they walked across the stage, collected their diplomas, shook hands with district representatives, and walked out as graduates, throwing their caps into the air to celebrate the occasion.
Five graduates were chosen to sit in front of their peers as the “Honor Five:” Tara Cady, Alissa Findley, Emery Harlan, Charlie Otto, and Nicholas Poll. Their advisors pinned gold chords to their gowns as an added recognition.
Eva Sundheim shared the “Reflections” speech, noting she was surprised to have the honor, considering she did not move to Delano until 2007 and did not have any other family in the area, though many people in the community included her in their family activities and events. Her family had chosen Delano after searching for a place “where normal people live,” she said.
“Delano isn’t normal, and I don’t know many normal people who live here,” she said toward the end. “If this town was filled with normal people, I don’t think I would have liked growing up here as much. I found my people here, and now I move on to bigger things.”
Jackson Groskreutz added the “Prospective” speech.
“Each of us, wearing cap and gown, can relax a little knowing we’ve made it this far,” he said.
While he said he is not a fan of change, he acknowledged “others in this room are bursting with excitement to move on.”
Learning how to overcome challenges in high school will help them complete their next chapters, he said.
He encouraged his peers not to look back with regret, but rather to focus that energy on optimism for the future.
In addition to speaking, Sundheim and Groskreutz received the American Legion School Citizenship Award, which recognizes students for loyalty, work ethic, character, good relationships, positive attitudes, and their responses to setbacks.
After receiving her award, Sundheim appeared unsure of which way to exit the stage, so Superintendent Matt Schoen put his arm around her shoulder and directed her where to go, eliciting laughter from the audience. In a show of consistency, he provided the same direction to Groskreutz.
Sundheim and Groskreutz were not the only students to speak, as Isabelle Hokanson, Daniel Moonen, Abigail Olson, and Calvin Wishart provided voiceovers during portions of a performance of “Walk on Water” by Sound Revolution.
Language arts teacher Daniel Mathieson addressed the students.
He questioned why he was chosen to provide the faculty address, which included references to “The Great Gatsby,” “Deadpool,” and “Beowulf.”
Amidst his jokes and use of tiny hands, which students were familiar with, he encouraged students to focus on who, not what, they want to be.
“If you had a Wikipedia page, you’d only be up to the section titled ‘Early life,’” Mathieson said. “If you only ever read about someone’s early life, you would recognize that most people live pretty unremarkable lives. I don’t say that because I don’t think you are significant at this point. I only say that because you have so much more life to live, and so much time to figure out who you are going to be.”
While others may think they know who the students are, he encouraged them not to let those people define them.
“The chance to figure out who you want to be is exciting,” Mathieson said.
The ceremony also included the band’s rendition of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and the choir’s version of “Omnia Sol.”