Sunday afternoon, Saxony Lutheran High School in Jackson became the second area high school to hold its graduation ceremonies this month. Shortly before 2 p.m., families began trickling into the Gerhard Birk gymnasium to celebrate the accomplishments of the record-breaking 49 members of the senior class of 2013 at their commencement ceremony.
Ten of these students call Perry County home, notably two of the three valedictorians, Rachael Gruenwald of Altenburg and Clayton Fritsche of Frohna, who made their graduation addresses a consorted effort along with third valedictorian Zachary Vogel of Cape Giradeau.
Other grads from Perry County included Marisa Bachmann, Allyson Bock, Brandon Fritsche, Tyler Hansen, Jordan Hoff, Eric Mahnken, Elizabeth Miesner and Rachel Stueve.
Graduates wore yellow ribbons pinned to their navy gowns in honor and memory of Chad Tipton, a classmate who died the summer after their sophomore year.
The top trio elected to deliver separate speeches with a centralized theme, with each speaker focusing their individual portion on either past, present and future, beginning with remarks from Fritsche who spoke to the graduates about the steps they had taken to arrive at this final stage of their high school careers.
“The past was a powerful thing,” Fritsche said. “It was where we learned from our mistakes, and where we experienced struggles that built us up to make us stronger. It’s what brought us to this moment here today. A quote from writer Maria Robinson states it perfectly: ‘No one can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.’”
Gruenwald addresses the graduates about the present, but not before using her platform to wish her mother Meredith a happy birthday.
“I found a birthday saying I’d like to share with her that really fits well with the theme our speech, ‘Forget about the past, you can’t change it. Forget about the future, you can’t predict it. Forget about the present, I didn’t get you one,’” Gruenwald announced to a roomful of laughter.
She went on to compare the present with her passion of cross-country racing.
“You don’t think about the race you have just run, whether it was the best race of your life, or the most painful known to man, and you don’t think about how far you still have to go before the finish line,” she said. “No matter how convinced you might be that you can’t go any further, you focus on the next ten steps and make those the best ten of the race. Then, when you make it through those, you ask God for His strength and another ten steps.”
Larry Cleair, the keynote speaker and beloved cross country coach and math teacher, delivered his address in the form a morning chapel, a style familiar to the students in the audience. The invocation of the day was offered by Rev. Mark Boettcher from Immanuel. Tilsit, and senior Gabe Bohnert offered the opening prayer.
Class of 2013 co-salutatorians are Lauren Barr and Carly Lorenz, both of Jackson.
School Counselor Judith Fuchs said 49 students received their diplomas Sunday, making them the largest Saxony class in the school’s nearly 10-year history.
“Over two-thirds of this class has earned scholarships totaling over $750,000,” Fuchs said. “Seniors are going on to attend 17 different schools and universities.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, families were invited to Saxony’s multipurpose room for refreshments that included personalized cookies for each graduate and a cake featuring a photograph of the entire Class of 2013 in cap and gown.
For additional coverage see Tuesday, May 21, 2013 print edition of the Republic-Monitor.