‘We made it!’

Published 1:49 pm Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tina Stripe helps her son, Carlton, with his cap before Albert Lea High School’s commencement ceremony Friday evening. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Student speakers Ashley Petersen and Dan Edwards spoke about the class of 2011’s journey through the various schools in Albert Lea’s school district Friday night during the commencement ceremony at Albert Lea High School.

“We managed to come together as one class coming from all different elementary schools,” Petersen said.

Ashley Petersen and Dan Edwards addressed the student class Friday night during the commencement ceremony at Albert Lea High School.

She and Edwards spoke about awkward junior high dances, the courage retreat that brought the class closer to each other and how scary the high school seemed as freshmen.

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“It is rising above each challenge that builds our character,” Edwards said.

Petersen told the graduates that even if they fail, they will learn from that experience and grow from it. They ended their speech by wishing good luck to the graduates and with a simple sentiment.

“We made it!” Petersen said.

High school Principal Al Root also spoke to the crowd to address a change in how graduates are distinguished. New this year is students being named summa cum laude, magna cum laude or cum laude. Root said it helped the school honor more than just the top 10 percent of the class.

Diane Heaney directs the Albert Lea High School concert choir who performed at Friday night's commencement ceremony.

Students wore red stoles for cum laude, which is having a GPA of 3.7 to 3.84. Silver stoles were for magna cum laude, or a GPA of 3.85 to 3.99. Gold stoles depicted summa cum laude, or a GPA over 4.0.

“We congratulate these students for bringing honor to our community,” Root said.

Some parents were getting emotional while helping their child get ready for the processional. Tina Stripe, mother of Carlton, said she’s been waiting for this day since Carlton was born.

“I’m very proud of everything he’s done,” Stripe said.

School board member Jill Marin started her address to the graduates by saying the last time she’d spoken before a graduating class was her own as valedictorian. The theme of her speech was walk in strength, walk in love, walk in hope.

“Let your voice be heard — your voice is important,” Marin said. “Your words are a reflection of you.”

Albert Lea High School graduates throw their caps in the air Friday night after the commencement ceremony ended.

She told them their words and actions make a difference, and that unexpected things will happen to them.

“Without a doubt each one of your will change the world,” Marin said.

Superintendent Mike Funk also spoke to the graduates to say the staff of the district has equipped them with the skill set to be successful in life.

“We have equipped your for life’s journey,” Funk said. “The rest of the journey is now up to you.”

Graduates stand during the "Star Spangled Banner" Friday night at the commencement ceremony at Albert Lea High School.

And they are ready for that journey. One graduate, Jessica Nolan, plans to attend Riverland Community College in the fall before transferring to a university to double major in social work and psychology. Some of her family was there Friday to see her walk across the stage, and her father, Pat, said he’s been looking forward to her graduation. Nolan said she’s happy to be graduating but sad to be leaving her friends.

“I’m already looking forward to my five-year reunion,” Nolan said.