Park High holds commencement June 9

By Joseph Back
Posted 6/12/24

Tradition met modernity Sunday June 9 as the Park High Class of 2024 walked the arena stage at Aldrich Arena in Maplewood, the 108th class to graduate from Park High School. Starting with the …

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Park High holds commencement June 9

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Tradition met modernity Sunday June 9 as the Park High Class of 2024 walked the arena stage at Aldrich Arena in Maplewood, the 108th class to graduate from Park High School.
Starting with the graduates entering to the band performing “Pomp and Circumstance” under the direction of Band Director Thomas Storm, the ceremony quickly shifted to a welcome by Park High Principal Todd Herber.
“Good afternoon, and welcome the 108th Park High Commencement Ceremony, and a special welcome to the Class of 2024,” he said. “South Washington County School supports indigenous land acknowledgement as an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory we reside on.” Then acknowledging the Dakota, Anishinabbe, Lakota, Dakota, Ho-Chunk, Cheyenne and other native peoples, the ceremony progressed to the presenting of the colors by the Jr. ROTC, followed by the singing of the national anthem, under the direction of Choir Director Benjamin O’Connor.
Following the national anthem Herber again took the stage, taking the opportunity to introduce staff and guests as well as honor staff.
“This afternoon, there are a number of people I would like to acknowledge,” he said, “that through their leadership and support have made Park High School a great school for students to learn and grow.”
Then naming school board chair Katie Schwartz, Herber also acknowledged board vice chair Simi Patnaik, treasurer Melinda Dols, and clerk Patricia Driscoll, along with directors Ryan Clarke, Eric Tessmer, and Sharon Van Leer.
Next acknowledging District Superintendent Julie Nielsen and Assistant Superintendent Kelly Jansen, Herber named Park High Assistant Principals Jonathan Hunt, Rena Jepma-Krohn, Phillip Kuemmel, and Gretchen Romain.
”And finally it is pleasure to acknowledge our honored staff speaker, Ms. Yonnie Eiden-Giel,” he said.
Named to honor staff by Park High graduates were William Arnsparger, Emily Ball, Katherine Block, Amanda Chapin, Abby Schroeder, Michael Catteral, Jacob Eberhard, Christopher Foss, Andrea Klepel, Kymm Salwasser, Jennifer Berling, Mitchell Bolin, Sean Duncanson, Chad Palmquist, and Ray Chamberlain
“Rarely is success achieved without help,” Herber told students, calling for a round of applause for parents and teachers alike.
Following this, the commencement ceremony attendees heard the musical selection “Crowded Table,” the commencement then proceeding to an address by seven Park High students named summa cum laude with distinction, including Mason Darling, Rebecca Etten, Macey Kaufenberg, Amber Norgaard, Jamy Randurup, and Victoria Stepka.
Alternating at the podium, the student speakers modeled their speech on Dr. Seuss’ ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go.’ Dr. Seuss’ message was that one’s own mentality determines success or failure, they said.
“So be sure when you step, step with great tact, for life is one great big balancing act,” Randrup said to Seuss’ rhyme pattern.
Following this the musical selection “Fracas” by Randall Standridge was played, after which Susan Mbu and Elliot Vanasse addressed their fellow classmates.
“We all had moments where we wanted to give up because we found it difficult,” Mbu said of high school and challenges like the pandemic. “There were times where we wondered if all the things we put up with would even be worth it.” Vanasse then took up the speech’s theme.
“But when we cross this stage today and get our diploma, it is a sign that it was all worth it,” he said. “If we take anything away from high school, left it be our perseverance.”
“We are the leaders of tomorrow,” Mbu told her fellow graduates.
“And tomorrow is today,” Vanasse finished out the thought.
Following the joint student address by Mbu and Vanasse, social studies teacher Yonnie Eiden-Giel gave the staff address.
“Today I’m here to teach the top six life lessons,” Eiden-Giel said sharing things she had learned from students.
“In September of 2011 during a weekend update, a student said, “Ms. Eiden, I learned when you see a cop, slow down,’” indicating that this comment concerned her as indicating how we speed through life.
“Learn to slow down and enjoy those moments,” she said, referencing advice from Ferris Bueller not to miss life for failing to slow down. From there it was on to lesson two.
“In January 2014, a student came and said, ‘this is why I’m alone. I get bored around other people.” The takeaway from this, Eiden-Giel said, was to know your limits, and take time for oneself if needed. From there it was on to point three: Recognize what makes you unique.
“During your time at Park High you have constantly wowed us with your talents with abilities,” she said. “Thank you.”
Helping round out the advice she learned from students, Eiden-Giel instructed students to know who they were, and be confident.”
“Who you are is far more important than who you think you should be,” she said. Point five was to accept that there would be disappointments in life.
“The question is how do we respond to these situations?” She asked. “I encourage you to see these situations as times you can learn, you can grow, and even appreciate.”
Point six was to be interested in other people.
“Be interested in life, be interested in other people. Be interested in what is outside the world directly in front of you,” Eiden-Giel said.
Following the staff speech to graduates, Principal Herber presented the class. District Superintendent Julie Nielsen then pronounced acceptance of the Park High graduates before the presentation of diplomas by school board members, as well as student council and NHS leaders.
The recessional played “Hail to the Wolfpack” by Louis Elbel as arranged by Paul Yoder, along with “Selections from Pirates of the Caribbean” as arranged by Ted Ricketts, with combined bands under the direction of Director Thomas Storm.
Congratulations to the Park High Class of 2024!