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Graduates encouraged to ‘Finish the Fight’

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Hailey Schaefer

Hailey Schaefer displays her diploma after receiving it during a parking lot graduation ceremony in which she received her diploma, was filmed walking across a graduation stage and posed for photos. Members of the MHS senior class had photos taken and videos shot over a two-day period in May to prepare for the June 5 virtual graduation ceremony that can be viewed online on the school district website.


On Friday, June 5, 303 Monticello High School seniors joined a unique club as graduates of MHS.

But members of the Class of 2020 reached the end of their high school careers in a way that the 12,625 graduates before them would have never imagined possible.

The Class of 2020 endured a global pandemic during the last three months of their high school careers amidst what was called the “new normal” in education: Distance learning.

As one of MHS’ 13 valedictorians Jacob Keller said in a commencement address during a June 5 virtual graduation ceremony, “The Class of 2020 is truly a remarkable class and this is not what any of us was hoping for, but we’ll never forget this memorable ending to our school career.”

As graduates, family members and friends shared an opportunity to watch the 2020 graduation ceremony on their computers, laptops, tablets, cellular telephones or on a television through a streaming application, Monticello High School Principal Mike Carr made a timely observation.

“The Class of 2020 has done some unique things, so why would they not have the most unique graduation ceremony in school history?” he asked during his introduction speech.

Carr went on to compare the graduating class to the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals. Carr noted that the Nationals came from behind to win all of their play-off games on won every World Series game on the road.

The team’s mantra was “Finish the Fight.” That could be the Class of 2020’s mantra as well, he said.

Carr reflected on how students left school on Friday, March 13 not realizing it would be the last time they were at Monticello High School representing the Class of 2020.

What followed could have never been expected.

There were no classes. There were no face-to-face meetings with students and teachers. There were no activities. There was no prom, Carr said. All this was taken away, he said.

“They could have easily quit but instead chose to finish the fight,” Carr said.

“They found the spirit to pull together and make an already-great class even better,” he said of the graduating seniors. “They learned a whole new style of learning and meeting with teachers and classmates.”

Added Carr, “ The Class of 2020 reached down and found they were able to finish the fight- and that’s why they will take their final walk on this virtual stage.”

Superintendent Eric Olson gave graduating seniors three pieces of advice: Laugh. Embrace change. Set daily goals.

He said by striving to do those three things, the students would lead happier and better lives.

Olson noted that the Class of 2020 has experienced some setbacks, but one would never know it based on the students’ accomplishments.

“Class of 2020, you will truly change the world for the better. I truly believe in are difference-makers,” he said.

Assistant Principal John Reeves reminded students that the 2019-20 school year was unlike anything a school has ever experienced.

“It impacted no group of students more than the graduating class of 2020,” he said.

Sports were impacted. Prom was impacted. Graduation was impacted.

“But most importantly, time together was lost,” Reeves said.

“Although you’ll remember missing out on experiences like these, I am hopeful you remember Monti High as a place where you learned together, laughed together, and grew together,” Reeves said.

In closing, Reeves noted that the graduates “Faced the unknown and transitioned to your next steps with grace and understanding.”

The top thirteen students in this class, Jamie Forstie, John Humphreys, Jacob Keller, Jadyn Nelson, Morgan Nystuen, Anneliese Olson, Ian Romine, Tyler Sampson, Megan Springsteen, Catherine Terres, Dina Theros, Kelsey Watters, and Hannah Woolston addressing their classmates, staff and parents through a parody of the 1987-95 television sitcom “Full House”- but the valedictorians’ version was called “Full Quarantine.”

To go along with 13 valedictorians, the honor students presented 13 things valedictorians do during quarantine that included: Waiting for packages, baking for fun, getting SWOLE (results of a workout), having fun at work, actually doing onliine school work, practicing acts of self-care, making TikToks, binge-watching Netflix, reinventing yourself, constantly snacking, procrastinating, sleeping in every day, and building forts. Each of the 13 valedictorians presented one of the activities before sharing a short reflection.

“For a class that was supposed to have 20/20vision, we sure didn’t see this coming,” Kelsey Watters said.

Everything students learned at Monticello High School prepared them for getting through tough distance learning, she said.

Catherine Terres reflected on the hardships that the past three months had brought upon students.

“Monticello taught us the importance of stepping up with our best foot forward, making light of difficult decisions and always finding the silver lining,” she said.

John Humphreys looked back on the glitches in technology found in distance learning, changes in what was expected of students, and the shift to distance learning itself.

“We learned the true meaning of adapting,” Humphreys said.

“Instead of letting changes bring us down, we persevered to make it through the year. We proved that sticking with it pays off,” he said.

Jamie Forstie reminded her fellow students that life can be unpredictable and expected outcomes don’t always occur.

“It’s important to remember that even in difficult times positivity can be found.

“Instead of dwelling on what we had to give up, be grateful for what we have,” she said.

The virtual graduation ceremony opened with something memorable for the graduates and their guests.

During the introduction of students through the use of senior photos, the processional “Pomp and Circumstance” was performed by the Minnesota Orchestra during an online performance.

Music continued throughout the ceremony with the Monticello High School Band performing “See you Again” from Furious 7 under the direction of MHS band director Brett Krohn, followed by the MHS high school choir’s performance of “The Road Home” by Stephen Paulus under the direction of MHS choir director Nathan Herfindahl. 

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Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

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