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UPDATED: AAHS celebrates 2018 graduating class

Alexandria Area High School senior Lindsey Knoll smiles before receiving her diploma at the AAHS graduation ceremony at the high school on Sunday. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)1 / 7
Alexandria Area High School senior Josie Minnerath smiles during one of the speeches at Sunday's graduation ceremony at the high school. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)2 / 7
Student speaker Samantha Gilbertson delivers a speech to her classmates at the Alexandria Area High School graduation ceremony on Sunday. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)3 / 7
Choir director Steve Deitz leads the choir during the Alexandria Area High School graduation ceremony at AAHS on Sunday. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)4 / 7
Alexandria Area High School seniors wave to friends and family in attendance at the AAHS graduation ceremony at the high school on Sunday. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)5 / 7
Alexandria Area High School senior Preston Bowden walks across the stage after receiving his diploma at the AAHS graduation ceremony at the high school on Sunday. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)6 / 7
Alexandria Area High School seniors throw their caps into the air in celebration at the conclusion of the graduation ceremony at the high school on Sunday. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)7 / 7

On Sunday, the Class of 2018 became the first to complete all four years of high school at Alexandria Area High School. And as 302 caps flew in the air at the end of the graduation ceremony, their time walking the brand-new halls as students officially came to a close.

"One thousand, three hundred seventy-seven days ago, we walked into Alexandria Area High School, but we sure are not the same people that are walking out," student speaker Josie Minnerath said. "In that short period of time, so much has changed and so many memories have been made."

"This is an accomplishment. It may feel that way more so to some of us than others, but it is," fellow student speaker Samantha Gilbertson added. "Four years of work have amounted to this moment when we are finally allowed to grab our lives with our bare hands and do whatever we want with them. We worked for this, so be proud."

During their speeches, Minnerath and Gilbertson shared stories and advice for their fellow graduates and a packed house of friends and family in attendance.

The ceremony also included musical performances by the AAHS Wind Ensemble and the Alexandria Choir, as well as from Allison Prestby, Jasmine Springer, Spencer Henning, Jaden Thorstad, Trenton Zins, Steven Roering and Connor LaSota.

"No matter how many times we wanted it to be over with, high school is something that has shaped us into the lovely individuals we are today," said Minnerath.

"So for that, I thank it. I thank high school for friends it gave me and the lessons it has taught me, but most importantly, the teachers who taught me the curriculum, as well as life advice I didn't even know I needed."

Gilbertson told the other graduates that they deserved their diploma and the opportunity to be the best person they can be.

"Here is where our lives really get to start," Gilbertson said, "and here is where we get to decide, 'I am going to be incredible.'"

AAHS principal Chad Duwenhoegger and Superintendent of Schools Julie Critz then gave the declarations that all the students had been waiting for.

"I hereby solidify that the students before you have met the graduation requirements established by School District 206 in the state of Minnesota," Duwenhoegger said.

"Members of the board of education and the District 206 community," followed Critz, "I am pleased to present the class of 2018."

Caps flew and cheers rang out after the presentation of diplomas, and a challenge from Gilbertson left with the newest class of graduating Cardinals: "Who's going to stop you?"

Micah Friez

Micah Friez is a sports reporter for the Echo Press in Alexandria. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Alexandria area sports updates and jokes he thinks are funny.

(320) 763-1230
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