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Morris Area seniors graduate Friday night

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MORRIS – On Friday, 84 area seniors received their diplomas at the Morris Area Elementary School Gym. Twenty-three students were recognized as honor students, and eight graduated with distinction.

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Valedictorian Michael Anderson and Salutatorian Katie Holzheimer delivered graduation addresses. Here are the students’ speeches:

Michael Anderson, Valedictorian

Thank you Superintendent Monson, Principal Peterson, faculty, family, friends, and Morris Area High School Class of 2013 for the privilege and opportunity to speak tonight. As a note of background, the valedictory address is meant to provide a farewell and best wishes for the future of the graduating class. I also note that at 8:20 p.m. on June 4, 1993, during the Morris Area High School valedictory address by Jeremy Lopez, a 4.1 Richter Scale earthquake occurred. Lopez is quoted to have said, “I don’t know how I can say anything after that.” So just in case my remarks are cut short by an earthquake, or some other act of nature, please allow me to now say farewell to my classmates and offer them my best wishes for the future. As a final note on this issue, I have dreamt that an earthquake occurs during my speech every night for the last two weeks.

The valedictory address typically has two goals: to say farewell and to inspire the graduates as they embark on new adventures. I’ve done the farewell, and I’m not likely to inspire. However, for the next hour and thirty seven minutes…I do have remarks that I hope will generate some thought and consideration on this occasion. Much to the relief of everyone, I will avoid the topics of religion, politics, and human reproduction. This is a shame really, because I am an expert on two of the three.

Parents, family, and friends, if you happen to glance at your graduates, you will notice that their eyes are closed, head flung back, mouths wide open, and maybe a bit of drool running out the side like this… please don’t be alarmed; this always happens. This is a response developed over many years of listening to me drone on and on. They are going to be out for a while. Rest assured dear friends; once we utter a phrase like l-u-n-c-h, it will bring them back from oblivion.

Aside from droning on and on (a trait picked up from Grandpa Howard by the way), I also inflicted the bagpipes on my classmates at an assortment of sporting events. In the past, bagpipes were used to help the Scots communicate during battle. I would like to think the opposing army took out the pipers first to stop communication, not music. Blame for my piping should be directed at my grandmothers Lou and Evelyn for inspiring those assaults on your hearing. I never met my grandfather Stan, but I understand that when he lived in northwestern South Dakota as a boy, he rode his horse to school in December and lived there with the teacher until spring. Faculty can now exhale with relief that those days are over.

While our class size is, in fact, larger than those years ago in South Dakota, it pales in comparison to that of many other high schools in Minnesota and the rest of the country. Yet, our class has made remarkable leadership achievements. Just to name a few...out of six state BPA officer positions, Kaylee Brandt was elected Executive Secretary, and she was named Business Professionals of America Ambassador of the Year at the national convention. Dylan Curfman is our Region 7 BPA president and was a BPA national champion in Human Resource Management. Brooke Wente was elected as the State FFA Secretary. Hannah Stewart was selected for All-State Band. Tom Holland, Jacob Torgerson, Courtney Gades, Katie Holzheimer, and MaKenzie Smith were all named Academic All-State athletes. Tanner Picht scored the most goals of all high school hockey players in Minnesota during the regular season. The robotics team led by seniors Caleb Sanderson, Mickey Cotter, Elizabeth Schneider, Blaine Hills, Shelby Marthaler, Darcey Aronson, Tahni Jungst, Aryn Parker, DaVonte Robertson, and Megan Wagner had a very successful season. James Burke, Tom Holland, Blaine Hills, Jesse Vavra, and Michael Michaelson all became Eagle Scouts. In addition, our class has played large roles in the backpack project, electronic recycling initiatives, the anti-bullying project, food shelf fundraisers, and so much more.

At this point, I ask the graduating class to please raise your hand if you’ve played a sport or participated in band, choir, robotics, student leaders, student council, art club, Spanish club, yearbook, drama, speech, math league, knowledge bowl, FFA, FCCLA, or BPA ... that’s a lot of the class. And the remaining students are probably working outside of school.

This seems like a lot of accomplishments for a class of this size. Is it? Well, yes and no. You see there is an intrinsic benefit from going to high school in a small town. According to research done by The National Education Association, small schools generally have higher achievement levels, higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and better designed curricula to meet student needs and interest. In addition to academics, small schools have also been shown to have fewer safety issues, better participation in extracurricular activities, and stronger roles in leadership development. In smaller schools, there are stronger relationships between students and faculty which provide stronger connections and encouragement for students to take on new challenges. In fact, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent 700 million dollars to study and establish small schools in this country.

Morris Area High School was recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s top public high schools and given a bronze ranking. It was the fourth consecutive year that our school received this recognition. Schools are awarded rankings based on state proficiency standards and how well they prepare students for college.

We have amazing faculty and relatively small classes; we have great cooks who keep us functioning throughout the day and wonderful custodians who keep our learning environment clean; we have friendly office staff to get us where we need to be; and, of course, we have helpful administrators who make it all possible. We’re even lucky enough to have a University of Minnesota campus right next door. Being given the jackpot in terms of our education is one reason to love our small community.

Another reason to love Morris is for its relative safety. I recently visited where I would have gone to high school if my parents hadn’t moved just before I was born—I’m really thankful for the move to Morris. Thanks mom and dad. I’m pretty sure I would have been beaten up every day. Here, I only got an occasional punch for being annoying. Or, like the time I was the target of a pick-pocket in a large city last summer—lucky for me I was walking with my hands in my pockets. By contrast, in Morris one of the biggest safety risks is slipping on ice during our endless winters or jostling for position at Dairy Queen.

I can tell you from personal experience that people from around the world find things about our little community a complete mystery. When I told my 5th grade class in Australia that people here drive cars onto frozen lakes to fish, they had exactly the same look as when I told them that in winter the Willies parking lot is filled with empty cars, engines running, waiting for their owners to return—and none get stolen. Yet, when we put things we don’t need on our front lawns with a free sign, they disappear. It’s the Morris version of Ebay. And, only in small towns will you know the names of each and every one of your classmates.

Now I’d like to mention some of Minnesota Senator Al Franken’s remarks at UMM’s commencement this year. He said, "Whether you end up starting a business or running for office or discovering a planet or finding a job you like and raising a family ... you're going to belong to a place. If you're lucky, you'll find yourself in a community much like this one ... but if you're smart, no matter what kind of community you find yourself in, you'll do everything you can to make it more like this one." You could say these remarks were referring to the UMM community, but I would apply the same words to Morris and our high school.

So let’s make sure we understand this—the rest of the country is trying to be like us. They want a safe community like ours. They want our class sizes, our graduation rates, our service activities, our participation in higher education, and our leadership opportunities.

I’m trying to point out that the things we take for granted are really quite remarkable.  I think as a class we should be humbled and thankful for the opportunities we have been given.  I also think that with great opportunity comes great responsibility to use our good fortune.  It becomes our duty to give others the same exceptional opportunities we have been given in this wonderful, small-town called Morris.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Doonesbury Cartoonist Garry Trudeau. He said, “These speeches were invented in the belief that outgoing high school graduates should never be released into the world without being properly sedated.” I say, mission accomplished. Farewell and best wishes to each member of the Morris Area High School Class of 2013!

Katie Holzheimer, Salutatorian

I would just like to say how honored I am to be giving this speech today on behalf of myself and the class of 2013. I’d like to start out by thanking my family for being so supportive over these years and I’d like to thank the class of 2013 for making these past 13 years memorable and unforgettable. I would like to thank all the dedicated teachers and staff we have that help us succeed every day. I would also like to thank the community for all the great support they give us and for the amazing facilities they offer to us, whether it’s with academics, athletics, or the arts. 

Looking back, as a class, we have had many great memories that will be remembered for a long time. I know I will always remember the old elementary school, especially the part where kids would get sent to the wall, no names in particular, Brandon. And I know no one will forget Greenwaldt’s amazing full hour lectures on one topic. And let’s not forget about the teacher flash mob dance this year during homecoming, with Mr. K showing off his awesome moves, and let’s just say, Mr. Viss, I think you need to stick to your day job.

All these memories and stories we share, it has led us to this day of graduation. All of us have a new future ahead of us, some knowing exactly what they want to do and some not knowing at all what they want to do for the rest of their lives, but it’s important to remember that we have options and can dare to dream for success.

When I started junior high, I made it a goal of mine to take opportunities and be successful, whether it was getting help on an assignment and not being afraid to ask questions, or putting extra time into getting better at a sport or piece of music we were playing.  I took this as a challenge to step up and do my best.  Most people see success as being the best trumpet player in band, being number one in your class, or even the best basketball player on the team. 

While these are all great achievements, I’ve learned that that’s not all of what success is about.  Someone this year gave me a poem defining success and I would like to share it with you.

“What is success?”

By Ralph Waldo Emerson

To laugh often and love much,

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To fill “the niche” and accomplish “the task”,

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; and to express both;

To leave the world better than it was whether by a healthy child, a garden of flowers, a redeemed social condition or a rescued soul;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived;

This is to have success.

What I have possessed in this world,

Will belong to someone else immediately…on the day of my death!

What I am will be mine forever!

The purpose of my life is not just to be happy.

It must be useful, honest, compassionate;

It must have made some difference that I have lived.

Now as the class of 2013, let’s go out and be successful, find our futures, and look back at high school with all the memories made, not being sad that it is over but being glad that it happened.

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