IRONWOOD — Seventy-two Luther L. Wright High School graduates were celebrated during the school’s 123rd commencement ceremony Sunday afternoon in Ironwood.
“This has been an amazing journey,” superintendent Tim Kolesar said. “You have been tried and tested and you are still standing. … Be proud of all your accomplishments.”
Those accomplishments include academic achievement, with 48 students earning scholarships and more than half the class graduating as honor students, athletic triumph, success at competitions for musicians, science students and extracurricular groups. Principal Michelle Kanipes recognized many groups for their successes during the ceremony.
The students had many supporters through the years, from family and friends to faculty and the whole community, Kolesar said. Many people have gone “above and beyond” to help the classmates succeed, he said. “Whoever the person was who made a difference in your life, be sure to thank them today,” he said.
Graduation speaker Lt. Col. David Manki, JROTC instructor at LLW, discussed values and doing the right thing. He said parents, family members, teachers and other supporters try to teach values to the students through the years like being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly and brave.
Manki said students’ supporters try to teach them right from wrong and hope they choose the right decisions. He gave the students advice on how to recognize if they may be thinking about doing the wrong thing.
“Do you ask others for their advice?,” he said. “Do you argue with yourself? Do you feel uneasy? And can you be thankful for what you want to do? Deep down, you know what you should do.”
He said if graduates focus on a smaller picture and make the right decisions daily, the rest will work out. “If you take care of the days, the weeks, months and years will take care of themselves,” he said.
Class president MacKenzie Jarocki also advised a tight focus. “No matter what you do, try to enjoy the moment you’re living in right now,” he told his classmates. He spoke about the past, present and future, how he sees plenty of potential in his fellow graduates and time spent together with an “awesome” class.
“It’s obvious we all enjoyed high school together,” Jarocki said. “In fact, I couldn’t imagine it anywhere else.”
Student senate president Bradley Torni stressed how “precious” time is and said his classmates should think of it in seconds, each one its own moment. He pointed out that by living in Ironwood for about 18 years, the students have spent more than 567 million seconds there. “Each and every one of those seconds made us who we are today,” he said. “Savor this moment, as well as every moment in your life.”
The ceremony included an empty chair among the class in memory of classmate Torey Gerbig, who passed away in a car accident Sept. 22, 2004. A graduation cap and gown and flowers decorated the chair. Blaze Gardner accepted a diploma for Gerbig.
The students had the opportunity to applaud their family and friends to thank them for the support during the ceremony. “Their support has ensured these young men and women reached where they are today,” Kanipes said.