“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,” a saying attributed to Winnie the Pooh, is the motto for Tekamah-Herman’s Class 2019.
As such, Jordan Wetzel might be the luckiest member of her 39-member class. One of four speakers for the Class of 2019 at Saturday’s commencement exercises, Wetzel couldn’t get through her well-practiced speech without breaking down.
“I can’t do this,” she said more than once while exiting slightly from her prepared remarks to speak from her heart.
The daughter of Warren and Trina Wetzel, she mostly wanted to thank her family and friends for making high school graduation possible for herself and her classmates.
She said the things the Class of 2019 had learned about themselves as they got older was unique to each individual, but that the answer to the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ should be the same for each of them.
“I think we should answer that with one word,” she said. “Ourselves.”
She encouraged her classmates to strive to reach the goals they set for themselves.
For some, she said, those goals may be simple: get a job, make money, or get to college.
Others are more specific.
“One of us wants to go into real estate, another wants to become an author, while some of us just want to see the world and explore, like me,” she said. “Another wants to become an American history teacher and a coach and there is always one in the bunch that loves kids with their whole heart and wants to earn a degree and start up their own daycare.”
Although future goals may differ, the one common goal they all had in mind for the last 13 years was simple, and it was happening right in front of them.
“I’m ready to graduate,” she concluded. “How about you guys? Let’s do this!”
Wetzel was the last of the four valedictory speakers. The group consisted to the top academic performers in the class. The others were: Kristen Bitter, Tyler Petersen and Brandon Schram.
Bitter also was thankful for the support she received throughout her school days and wanted especially to thank the mothers in attendance, on the day before Mothers Day, for everything they do.
The daughter of David and Jill Bitter of Herman, she said she was beyond honored to be representing her class at the lectern.
“Four short years ago, most of us dreamed about this day and wished for it to come quickly. We were told to cherish every moment because before we knew it, our time would be over,” she said. “So as we move forward with our lives, we should treasure the many memories we have shared and experienced over the years.”
Bitter said few people can say they have several best friends as she does, and she considers herself to be beyond blessed to have spent her high school years with her classmates. Most of them grew up together and some joined in along the way, but they all helped mold each other into the individuals they have become.
“As one door closes, the next one opens. It is now time for us to pursue our own paths,” she said. “So congratulations Class of 2019 and thank you THS for shaping us into the people we are today.”
During his time at the microphone, Petersen proved to a man of few, although well-chosen, words.
The son of Chris and Shellie Petersen of Herman, he admitted that coming to Tekamah to school in the seventh grade scared him.
“Four-foot-10 and 75-pound me was worried I’d get lost,” he said.
A quiet person to begin with, he said knowing few people in the new surroundings made him very shy. But, over time he became more talkative and outgoing, something he credits to his high school experiences and he’s hoping the trajectory continues for everyone in his class.
“High school is said to be the best time of your life, however, I hope it isn’t,” Petersen said. “I hope we can all move on to bigger and better things in life.
“I did have lots of good memories and I’m sure everyone else did, too, but as young adults we have our whole lives ahead of us to make more memories.”
Petersen said he and his classmates are entering a time of their lives where they will enjoy more independence, more freedom to do as they please with their time.
“I hope we make the most of that time and have a positive impact in our community,” he said.
He wanted to thank everyone who’s had a positive impact on his life, including his family, friends and his teachers.
“Without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I wouldn’t be speaking here today if it wasn’t for them.”
Schram said a saying that hung in Juliet Jensen’s classroom came true for all of them.
“‘Never settle for less than your best.’ That quote was a reminder that everything we were doing would come out to benefit us in the end—and it has,” he said. “Not settling has got us into the colleges we wished to attend, got us whichever scholarships we received, and many more things. It also made us realize that working hard in her classroom would benefit us.”
Schram not only thanked his classmates, family and friends, but also the underclassmen and had an extra measure of gratitude for his coaches.
“I think I speak for all of us when I say that we learned some of our best lessons from you and the sports we played,” he said. “We may not have had the most success possible, but I think we learned more about ourselves with the seasons we had than if we had won every game.
“So thank you Coach Mac, Coach Desmond and Coach Mencke for making my senior year successful in athletics and teaching me how far hard work will take you.”
He offered his appreciation to his parents, Marc and Paris Schram, for never turning away when he came to them with a problem. He also encouraged his brother, Dawson, saying he could not have asked for a better little brother, “even though you are bigger than me.”
In closing, Schram said he wouldn’t have traded his classmates for anything,. Despite their disagreements, he said he hadn’t witnessed a class with the same camaraderie and friendships as theirs.
“As I walk across this gym for the last time as a student here at THS, I can honestly say that I am so extremely proud to be a Tekamah-Herman Tiger,” he said. “Thanks for all the opportunities THS. You’ve been one in a million.”
Scholarships and awards were presented by Tekamah-Herman High School Principal Tom Borders and Guidance Counselor Nishja Nuss. Collectively, the Class of 2019 qualified for over $413,000 in scholarships to several institutions of higher learning in several states. During Saturday’s commencement, the Tekamah-Herman Community Schools Foundation provided 128 scholarships, totaling over $150,000, to graduates and past grads.
Foundation treasurer Sarah Chatt told the assembled crowd that the foundation has now provided over $2 million in scholarships and capital improvements for the school since the foundation began in 1993. In the past year, five new scholarships were started and the foundation provided nine classroom grants providing a variety of items ranging from technology for elementary classrooms to accessories for the music department to screen printing equipment for the business department.
Chatt said 95 percent of the foundation’s funding has come from alumni as a way to pay back what the school and the foundation have done to positively impact their lives.
Chatt said because of the generosity of its donors the foundation is able to assist the school in ways many other districts do not enjoy.
“Many schools rely on books, repetition and exams,” she said. “Classroom grants let teachers expand learning styles. Students learn differently. Using different styles allows all of them to be their best.”
Following a senior memory slide show, diplomas were conferred by Superintendent Dan Gross, Board of Education president Mandyn Pruess and board member Bill Skinner.