DELAVAN — When the Class of 2016 was finishing 4-year-old kindergarten in 2003, the movie Finding Nemo was an animated hit in the theaters.
The movie was about a father fish who travels the ocean with a forgetful friend to find his lost son.
The boys and girls back then had spent the year finding their way as first-time students — some of them quite possibly lost, too — in our educational system.
This summer, Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo, will be in theaters and these same students will be finding their way in the sea of life as high school graduates.
But they won’t be lost so easily. They’ve all received solid education at Delavan-Darien High School and these newest 187 Comet alumni, who crossed the stage and received their diploma on Thursday, June 9, are ready to enter college, the military and the workforce.
Perhaps it is fitting that “This year’s class motto is, ‘We cannot discover new oceans unless we have the courage to lose sight of the shore,’” Principal Mike Kolff said. “This class has demonstrated courage throughout their four years here.”
Nearly 50 percent of the students ended high school with a grade point average of over 3.0, placing them on the honor roll. Of those, 26 students earned high honors of 3.75 or above.
Sixty members of the class took 147 Advanced Placement tests in 12 different areas earning college credits and recognition in engineering, chemistry, welding, business, computer skills, accounting, foreign languages and other subjects.
The class also contributed to one of the school’s most successful runs in athletics, with members being a part of the 2014 WIAA Division 2 State Champion Boy’s Soccer Team, and members also on the history-making 2016 WIAA Division 2 State Softball squad, which was playing in a state tournament game for the first time ever on graduation night.
Graduates were awarded 132 local scholarships worth more than $144,000 in a separate ceremony on Sunday afternoon, June 5. Combined with outside scholarships, the class received more than $685,000 for continuing their educations.
Four members are joining the US Armed Forces — Jasmin Guadalupe Velazquez to the US Marine Corps Reserve; Pablo Eduardo Gomez-Castro to the US Army National Guard; Sabrina Ann Tegge to the US Army active duty; and Royal Soto to the US Air Force active duty.
Cristina Bahaveolos was the class valedictorian and Gage Wuttke the salutatorian.
“From here we are all going to spread our wings and fly to where our destinies command,” introductory speaker Jailyn Schroeder told her classmates. “No matter where each of you choose to go, remember that you have the power to accomplish what your heart desires. Each and every one of you has the power to make a change in this world. Always remember to believe in yourself and work hard. Maintain a good attitude, and this will get you to where you want to be.”
“Everyone here has the power to do amazing things,” added class speaker Pablo Cook Lavariega. “You have an education under you now. Believe me, you are already ahead of so many parts of the world. It’s an honor to have, and a privilege that should not be wasted.”
Bahaveolos talked about how each day, memories were made in high school and added to the timeline of the students’ lives. But “the best years of our lives” don’t have to stop at graduation day, she said. Memories should be cherished, and new memories made.
“The fact that it’s graduation day is surreal,” Bahaveolos said. “But looking back, I am content with my collection of memories. I’m ready to move on, to make new ones, to experience college and this alleged ‘real world.’ We all are, actually. That’s what the past 12 years have been about. And when we walk across the stage today, remember that yes, we are starting a new chapter, but we’re not leaving these memories behind. They’re just as important on the timeline as every one we make after this.”
And when the graduates enter the sea of life, and have to start finding their own ways, fellow class speaker Melonie Wright offered this advice:
“You may have survived high school, but don’t plan on getting through life the same way. Learn the difference of surviving versus living. It’s like when you hear but you aren’t really listening. Pay attention. I hope that you realize that the size of your bank account will not equal your happiness. There’s no set equation. You can’t solve the secrets of life through multiplication. Learn to subtract the negativity from your life and divide yourself from those who hold you down. Do not let the things you own measure your worth. Find happiness and purpose in what you do. Through that, I promise you will find true success.”
So, class of 2016, good luck in finding new oceans and continuing your success. Congratulations. You’ve made it.
Vignettes: New Surprises
- With scholarships being awarded on Sunday, June 5, graduation lasted about 90 minutes. That’s about half as long as prior graduations had lasted.
- Senior members of the DDHS Lydian Choir, the school’s most advanced singing group, sang Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with Choir Director Jim Larson on piano.
- Both the DDHS Symphonic Band and DDHS Orchestra played together as the DDHS Symphony. They entertained the audience before and after the ceremony.
- Three graduates — Katelyn Gonzalez, Shelby Gramly and Jennah Speth were unable to walk at graduation since they were making school history by playing in the WIAA Division 2 state softball tournament in Madison. It was the first time the Comets have ever played in the state tournament.
- The DDHS Class of 1991 is celebrating its 25th reunion this year. Stacy Warner Lubke and Troy Riley presented a plaque to the class and the school. It had an engraving of the school and a quote from Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” The plaque was accepted by senior Amber Reed.
- It was the last graduation presided over by Principal Mike Kolff. Kolff came to DDHS last year as an interim principal following the retirement of Mark Schmitt, who left for health reasons. Kolff stayed on this entire school year, but will now head back to retirement. He plans to travel more often.