Elk River High School students collect 370 diplomas at June 11 in-person ceremony

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Members of the Elk River High School Class of 2021 finished off a school year made memorable by the long shadow of a global pandemic, as they collected their diplomas in commencement exercises Friday, June 11.

The class consisted of approximately 370 graduates. Parents and other key figures in their lives filled the bleachers in the high school gymnasium to watch them graduate.

Wearing red gowns and caps, the graduates filed into the gym to a processional by the Elk River band.

Principal Terry Bizal gave the introduction and emceed the ceremony.

The Elk River Police Department Honor Guard presented the colors, as the hushed audience watched. The band played “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the school song and the choir sang, “Amavolovolo.”

Several speakers took the stage.

“What a year it has been,” Superintendent Daniel Bittman said. He told the graduates they will have quite a story to tell their kids — from distance learning to masks to the uncertainties surrounding sporting events.

“You persevered. You have set an example for our students, our families and our community. You have led by example and you have made ISD 728 and Elk River High School proud to be part of this team.

“... We appreciate you. We applaud you, and we know that you will continue to make us proud,” he said.

Class President Edyn Fosse shared some of her takeaways from high school.

One of the biggest ones is to not take things too seriously.

“That one test or project that you think is the biggest thing ever is not going to matter in even just a few months,” she said.

She advised graduates to live in the present and enjoy where they are at in life, because they won’t be there forever.

Her second biggest takeaway is to live life with no regrets, take that chance, do the thing that you’re not sure about.

“You never know what great things could end up happening if you decide to take some chances,” she said.

Lexi Milless, high honors representative, said most graduates likely thought 2021 would be a year to remember — filled with senior memories.

“And while memories were made, they weren’t the ones that we expected,” she said. “... For me, this pandemic has highlighted the harsh reality that us fresh-faced teenagers weren’t ready to hear: that life doesn’t wait for us to be ready.”

However, she said these interesting times have helped prepare graduates for the real world with its chaos and clutter.

“I think it’s safe to say that these years will leave a long-held legacy. And we got to be part of that,” she said.

Faculty representative Allison Harmer, an English teacher and speech coach at Elk River High School, said after the year they have all had, it is a profound relief to do something as normal as celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates at their graduation ceremony.

She told the graduates that they are strong, powerful and important.

“You are important to the people here today — friends and family and your staff — not because of anything you do, but because of who you are. You’re important because you make our lives better because you’re a part of it,” she said.

Assistant Principal Julie Odegard accepted the class, counselors presented the seniors and members of the Elk River Area School Board handed out the diplomas.

After the last diploma was presented, the crowd gave the class a standing ovation. Bizal introduced the 2021 graduates of Elk River High School, and they threw their hats into the air.

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