Sunday’s graduation at New England Public School was a family affair.
By Brad Mosher
For Kelly Koppinger, it was a last lesson he wanted to impress on his soon-to-be former students.
He praised the faculty and staff for the time and effort they had put in since the students on the stage first came to the school many years ago.
“They finally get to see the rewards of all their hard work,” Koppinger said in the introduction for the commencement.
He then turned to the students on the stage with him.
“Graduating is a remarkable achievement. I hope that each of you is truly proud to reach this milestone,” the school superintendent said .
“I can tell you as a father, that pride you are feeling goes double for your family. Your parents’ hearts are bursting right now.
“You hold a key to a bright future for all of us with the use of your talents, capabilities and energy. You are an awesome group,” he added.
That was a theme throughout the afternoon ceremony.
The valedictorian, Elizabeth Kaufman, followed the theme. “It is hard to make it through high school. Some people don’t make it. At New England High School, Class of 2019, are extremely lucky to go to school here. It has not been easy for …
“We are lucky to go to a school where people care about us.
“There were times when we didn’t think we would make through the piles of homework, but somehow, we managed to. It is no surprise that we made it through, either.
“These amazing young men and women sitting beside me are capable of anything and everything they put their minds to. This class has some of the smartest, most responsible and hardest-working people I know.
“Not only do they have a great work ethic, but they have a tremendous heart. This class were so dedicated to make it through high school, that I can hardly wait to see how successful they will be throughout the rest of their lives,” Kaufman said.
She told her classmates to “never forget where you came from and who helped you get here.”
Kaufman also wanted to thank all the people who attended the commencement. She started close to her heart. “Mom. Thank you for raising me to be the person I am today,” Kaufman said, her voice cracking with emotion. “You are a great role model, even though I never seemed to think that you were right.
“Dad. Thank you for instilling the love of sheep in me,” her voice wavering.
She continued, thanking the rest of her family, her grandparents, her teachers, coaches, her friends and then she turned to her classmates.
“Thank you for being you.. For enjoying this journey with me and for growing with me over the years.
“These are the people who’ve impacted me and helped me … over the years. I will never forget what they have done for me.
“My fellow classmates, I challenge you to never forget those who helped you achieve this goal. Also, don’t forget where you came from, because going to a small school is priceless.”
Salutatorian Eve Stegner focused on challenges.
“What if I fail? What if I am not good enough?”
That is how the salutatorian started to focus on meeting the challenges in school and life when she addressed the commencement audience of friends, family, relatives and the community that has watched her grow.
“What if I told you the answers to those questions are irrelevant,” she said. She found a quote that resonated with her – “Be Brave enough to be Bad at Something New.”
The phrase she’d found described a piece of her life.
Her friends knew here as someone who’d watch physics and chemistry lectures online for fun, she admitted.
“They also know that I am not exactly the most athletically inclined.
“After taking a multiple-year hiatus from sports … and any physical activity … my good friend Takoda Westling, convinced me to join the track team last spring.
“I was scared to join track, but I was more scared of Takoda’s wrath if I chickened out,” she said, glancing at her classmate. “To sum the season up in three words – It Was Rough. I got last place in almost every single race. I was constantly lagging behind in practice and being lapped in races should have been disheartening. I should have wanted to quit out of embarassment amd exhaustion.
“But I didn’t. Why? Because even though I was in last place and even though I was slower than everyone else was, I got faster with every passing race.
“I was improving.” Stegner said. “Measuring how much I could improve became my goal.”
She went on to tell the audience that she found a passion in running and one she can enjoy for the rest of her life.
She will continue running in the fall on the University of Jamestown cross country team.
“I am still slow… but I love what I am doing,” she said. “I am working to get better every single day.”
That was an example how one decision could dramatically change their lives, Stegner told her classmates.
It was literally the last day in school for 14 soon to be alumni, as well as five exchange students. All 19 left with diplomas.
It started with Kaufman receiving the first diploma, followed by Stegner, Zachary Michael Madler, Takoda Westling and Jayla Lynn Nelson among the school honors students.
Kari Ann Blackbird receiving the first diploma for the rest of the Class of 2019. She was followed by Dakota D. Bray, Dessiree Marie Harmon, Anthony W. Hibl, Tate Joseph Nordby, Robert Caydon Petri and Hayden Allen Turner.