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Edgerton High School graduates honor classmate

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Jim Dayton
Sunday, June 5, 2016

EDGERTON—Gina Zagelow's eyes might have teared up before Edgerton High School's graduation ceremony Sunday, but she said the day was not a difficult one.

“I'm really happy for the Class of 2016,” Zagelow said. “It's emotional … but I know Zach would have been super proud, and I know he's looking down at his friends, smiling.”

Zagelow's son Zach died last year. Sunday would have been his graduation day. His brother joined 124 other graduates and walked across the stage to accept a diploma on Zach's behalf.

Some of Zach's classmates wore small blue ribbons in his memory, and the school dedicated a page to him in the yearbook. His name received the loudest ovation during the ceremony inside the field house.


Graduates could earn up to four honor cords for their work and community service in high school—gold for academic honors, blue for fine arts honors, black for vocational honors and white for a distinguished service award. David Gonzalez-Salzwedel sported all four of them and said getting involved in extracurricular activities was highly valuable.

“This is the time to explore while you have the opportunity before it becomes a decision or a commitment,” said Gonzalez-Salzwedel, who also gave one of the student speeches. “You get to explore opportunities without necessarily having them become your lifelong decision.”

Gonzalez-Salwedel will continue such exploration over the next year. He'll embark on a yearlong theology program in Spain before returning to Wisconsin to study mechanical engineering at UW-Milwaukee.


A group of four graduates—Jacob Burner, Adeleigh Gausman, Jeramiah Oaks and Hailey Voss—said the biggest thing they learned during high school was the importance of self-expression.

“Being yourself and not trying to follow the crowd,” Gausman said. “Doing what's most comfortable with yourself. In the end, it only affects you.”

Burner's favorite memory at Edgerton was writing freely during his creative writing class. He enjoyed the support and constructive criticism he received from his teacher, Susan White.


Empty seats were hard to find inside the field house, and a handful of people were forced to stand in the back. As time ticked down before the ceremony began, one last wave of parents and family members hurried to find places to sit.

“I'm a nervous wreck because I wanted to get here a lot earlier,” grandmother Maxine Porter said as she rushed inside.


District Administrator Dennis Pauli, one of three adults who spoke, said he was proud of the graduates' involvement in various clubs and organizations and believed the students would have successful careers.

Pauli emphasized that finding success was not the most important thing in life. He cited an academic study that found being successful did not necessarily result in happiness, and he told the students to first find something they loved.

“The formula is broken,” Pauli said. “Happiness comes before success.”

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