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Beloit Turner grads look to the other side of the fence

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Monday, June 9, 2014

BELOIT—“In order to keep with the traditions of this year, I'm going to take a quick selfie,” Beloit Turner class president Natalie Fowler said to begin her address during Sunday's ceremony.

The audience laughed as she snapped a picture of herself before her fellow graduates.

Fowler spoke at length about time spent with peers and teachers alike over the past four years at Turner.

“Thank you to our wonderful teachers and principal. We couldn't have made it this far without their help,” she said.

“Today we say goodbye, and the most important goodbye we say is to each other,” she said in closing. “I will never forget the memories we made together.”

Tim Rosenthal led the choir in an arrangement of “Lean on Me.”

The other side

Valedictorian Casey Behnke spoke about making the best of the future.

She rebuffed the common phrase “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” stating that the grass is greenest where it's watered, and that “knowledge and experience” act as the water that keeps the future's grass bright.

“I'm confident that every member of our class will carry enough water to make their grass green as they cross the fence of graduation,” she said.

Behnke went on to say that the class has learned a lot in its four years at Turner, from book smarts to “what it is to be a true friend.”

“I hope this is the start of the best years of your lives, not the end,” she said to the graduates. “Let's celebrate that we made it here together.”

A few graduating seniors joined the band in an arrangement of “You'll Be in My Heart,” led by director Brandon Viliunas.

Salutatorian Jordyn Riemer addressed the audience as well, thanking the students' families for putting up with them through their “moody, teenage years.”

“Although we have learned a lot on our own, we'll still make mistakes,” she said. “Challenge yourself to be better than you were.”

Being a leader

Principal Ryan Bertelsen took the podium to give the ceremony's final speech, noting the graduates' leadership abilities.

He suggested three qualities that every leader should have: openness to discovering the truth, personal responsibility and, most importantly, empathy.

Bertelsen cited Henry Kissinger when he said that “a leader does not deserve the name unless he is willing to stand alone.”

Each of the 94 graduates received their diplomas and bouquet of flowers to shouts and applause.

After the class of 2014 moved their tassels, tossed their mortarboards and covered each other in aerosol string and confetti, they shuffled into the narrow hallway outside.

Senior Channell Stewart was greeted by the happy whoops and camera flashes of her family as she emerged from the gym. A smile was glued to her face.

“It's unreal that I'm graduating from high school,” she said. “I'm just happy I get to spend it with everybody that's here with me.”

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