by Jim Boyle


More than 70 Spectrum High School students graduated on May during an in-person inside the school’s gymnasium in Elk River.

About the only limit placed on the ceremony was the number of tickets afforded to each graduate’s family at two. Those who couldn’t be in attendance had the option to watch it livestreamed.

The ceremony started an hour earlier than usual at 6 p.m. to provide time and light for a car parade of graduates after the ceremony was complete. Spectrum students have a lot to celebrate as they head out into the real world, having already completed nearly $1 million worth of postsecondary schooling through robust PSEO program involvement and work on Minnesota’s Transfer Curriculum.

Eleven Spectrum seniors graduated with an A.A. degree: Benjamin Bergley, Ella Burfeind, Emily Dopp, Zachary Knapp, Morgan Novotny, Lisa Algaard, Bailey Brown, Abigail Debes, Rachel Johnson, Elizabeth McCoy and Lauren Peckham. The class also had three complete the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum: Leah Burney, Kayla Niedzielski and Jacob DeMond.

The total number of college credits earned by Spectrum’s Class of 2021 is 2,434, which when compared to the average public college and/or university across the United States, is an approximate savings of $964,000 in college tuition.

Students have done well in uncertain times

Spectrum students have proven they have the ability to adapt in difficult circumstances and changing environments.

Bailey Brown, the class’s salutatorian with a cumulative GPA of 4.092, welcomed the Class of 2021 and those in attendance as well as the audience viewing the ceremony online with her speech.

“It brings me so much joy to look out at the faces in this building tonight,” she said. “... No matter how you are attending this ceremony, thank you for being a part of this special occasion.”

Brown talked about the uncertainties the 2020-21 school year presented due to COVID-19 and the pandemic.

“After going through most of our senior year not knowing whether we would be able to have a graduation ceremony or not, ‘grateful’ does not seem like a strong enough word to describe what my classmates and I are feeling this evening,” she said. “There’s no doubt that the Class of 2021 had a senior experience much different from any class before us. The challenges my classmates and I faced this year were far from ideal.

“Amidst the struggles and frustrations, however, I have witnessed the persistence of my peers. Not only did we persist through this year, but we added on to the growing list of our achievements. Though it was not the senior year we would have hoped for, we continued to make the best of it. The Class of 2021 is not defined by the circumstances of our senior year.”

She said as she searched for adjectives to describe her classmates in her speech, she said she concluded everyone is so different from the next person and all have so much to offer.

“My classmates are unapologetically themselves, and it is so refreshing to see,” she said.

She urged her classmates to acknowledge the challenges faced and celebrate the accomplishments made by the Class of 2021.

Madeleine Loewenstein, the class’s valedictorian with a cumulative GPA of 4.093, delivered the honor student address. She shared something her PSEO Intro to Psychology professor, Dr. Mork, told her and her classmates: They should ask themselves two variations of “What can I do today?”

First, “What can I do today that will make my past-self jealous?”

And secondly, “What can I do today that will make my future-self grateful?”

“Thinking about that question changes your perspective, and I encourage each one of you to reflect on that,” she said. “For me personally, it makes me reflect on my actions and how I care for others. It is a part of my faith that everyone should be treated with love and care, so if I am the one that can do that for them today, what is stopping me? For yourselves, I want to challenge you to think about what those questions mean for you.”

Loewenstein said Spectrum students will continue grow in new and different ways from one another, and she cautioned her peers not to let that get them down on themselves.

“Don’t compare yourself to others,” she said. “Your life is a compilation of your choices and there is only one of you. The only person to compare yourself to in the present moment is the one you were yesterday. So, move forward with confidence and — even if you lack that — fake it until you make it, and take on the next (step).”

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