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Here's to the next 50 years, Beloit Turner

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Neil Johnson
Sunday, June 5, 2016

TOWN OF BELOIT—Sunday's graduation ceremony at Beloit Turner High School marked the 50th class of seniors to leave the town of Beloit school with high school diplomas.

But for some, it wasn't about celebrating the past—or even necessarily the present.


As Beloit Turner Principal Ryan Bertelsen remarked on the significance of the 50th graduating class in Turner's packed gymnasium Sunday afternoon, he cast his thoughts forward to the high school's sixth decade and beyond.

Bertelsen told the 108 graduating seniors that he believes they have lived up to their class motto: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Bertelsen talked about a moment in his life he said he'll never forget. It happened late last week, when students from Turner's Class of 2016 held a “graduation parade” in the hallways of Powers Elementary School.

He said the seniors arrived at the elementary school as homegrown luminaries, with parents, staff and students turning out to congratulate them on their graduation.

But when it came time for the parade, Bertelsen said, they instead shared the spotlight with students who, in a decade, will be in their shoes.  

The parade turned into a rally for the Powers Elementary students, as the seniors opted to stop on the hallway parade route to kneel down and hug, high-five and talk to each Powers student watching the parade.

Bertelsen said he welled up with emotion and pride as he watched the Turner seniors transform a celebration of their own accomplishments into a show of encouragement for younger students in the district.

“By leaning down to their eye level, reaching down to each Powers (Elementary) student … you made each student feel special because of one interaction,” Bertelsen said.

Bertelsen believes it will leave a lasting mark for the young students who experienced it.

“How powerful is it knowing there is currently a student at Powers who wants to graduate someday—who wants to come back and walk through the hallways at Powers as a graduate, just because of the experience they had with you, the Class of 2016.

"That's what I'm most proud of—the class that was always finding ways to make something better,” Bertelsen said.


Class Salutatorian Guadalupe Orbezo-Perez echoed Bertelsen's thoughts by telling students and the crowd that education isn't simply a parcel of accolades or a suitcase full of knowledge to lug around so the world can see it.

She chose a quote by visionary Irish author William Butler Yeats, who in his poetry and plays departed from hard science and academics and instead drew on the traditions, customs and folklore of common people to create inspiration.

“Let everything you do reflect the best in you,” Orbezo-Perez said. "Like Yeats said: 'Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.'”

She said in the graduates' English class, each student had to sum up his or her life story for the class memory book. They had to create narratives that wove in their childhood and their teenage years.

Orbezo-Perez encouraged the 108 students in the Class of 2016 to continue to chronicle their own lives for others to view in the decades to come.

“Write down your story. And make sure it's a really good one, so that in the future your children and grandchildren can aspire to follow your footsteps as they plan their own path to greatness.”  

Last updated: 5:46 pm Sunday, June 5, 2016

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