VIDEO: Smiling all the way - class of 2012 says good-bye to high school
In welcoming the huge crowd that gathered in the sweltering heat inside Jefferson High School's gym for Sunday's graduation ceremony, science teacher Thomas Smith joked that the event was the hottest ticket in town.
The celebration was moved indoors because of the threat of thunderstorms, but it didn't wilt the enthusiasm of the Class of 2012's last hurrah of high school.
A total of 292 graduates accepted their diplomas, turned their tassels and tossed their graduation caps into the air to celebrate the special milestone in their lives.
They listened to the advice from speakers, laughed a lot, cried a little, remembered the past and contemplated their future.
In his opening comments, Smith turned the tables on the students by having them all rise and give a standing ovation to their parents for helping them achieve academic success.
Student speaker Caroline Roers led the students on a journey through childhood, from having fun at the playground to getting behind the wheel of a car and preparing to drive into the future.
Student speaker Lucas McKirdy encouraged his classmates to draw inspiration from the Star Wars movies. He told them to find out what they want to do and excel at it, and to expect the unexpected. He ended his speech with a spot-on imitation of the half-honk, half-roar of the Star Wars character, Chewbacca.
Another student speaker, Reanna Brede reminded her classmates to thank their family members for helping them succeed in school and told them to cherish the memories they made in high school.
Social studies teacher Chris Biegner delivered the commencement address. He gave a first-hand account of an eight-and-a-half mile hike he had taken, recalling special moments and challenges along the way and reminding graduates that their journey through high school will leave them with a lifetime of memories.
Biegner also told about a 4th grade girl from Utah who was featured in a popular You Tube video. Just before she was about to make a daring downhill ski jump, the girl, terrified but resolved, said, "Here goes something, I guess." Biegner urged the students to face the things that terrify them, too.
English teacher Chris Kragenbring, who gave the closing remarks, traced lessons that could be learned from popular books released during the students' years in school - Love You Forever (about unconditional love between a child and a mother), The Adventures of Captain Underpants (about having fun), the Harry Potter series (about overcoming failure like author JK Rowling did), Twilight (she admitted she couldn't come up with anything profound about the popular vampire-themed romance saga) and The Hunger Games (about showing appreciation for loved ones).
Music also played a big part in the ceremony. The Jefferson Concert Choir performed Bridge Over Troubled Water, graduate Kalee Guenther played guitar and sang, Can't Go Back Now and the Jefferson String Orchestra provided the opening and recessional music.
After the students departed the gym, they headed outside where a welcoming breeze provided some relief from the heat. They posed for more photos and gave each other more last-minute hugs and well wishes before moving on to their next milestone - life after high school.
Al Edenloff Al Edenloff was born in Alexandria and later moved to Parkers Prairie where he graduated in 1979. While in high school, he wrote sports stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent. Al graduated from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communication and started at the Echo Press as a summer intern in 1983. He worked as a reporter until 1990 when he was named editor. He's earned several writing and reporting awards from the Minnesota Newspaper Association (MNA) and the National Newspaper Association. He was presented with the Minnesota News Council's Journalism Accountability Award and is a three-time winner of the MNA's Herman Roe Editorial Writing Award. In his spare time, Al enjoys golfing, fishing, biking, watching sports, cooking and reading mystery novels.