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Uotila tells Ontonagon graduates 'Never let fear hold you back'


Jan Tucker/Daily Globe

Leading the 32 Ontonagon Area High School graduates in a tradition of placing the class flower, the Tiger Lily, in vases on entering the gymnasium Friday were co-valedictorians Amanda Pantti and Abby Domitrovich and salutatorian Michelle Perttunen.

ONTONAGON - A teacher who students said has affected not only their minds, but their hearts, as well, delivered the commencement address at the Ontonagon Area High School graduation Friday.

Jon Uotila was the unanimous choice of the seniors to deliver the address and he received a standing ovation from students at the conclusion of his speech. Uotila is a 1994 graduate of Ontonagon and a 2000 graduate of Northern Michigan University in Marquette. He has taught biology, English, American literature and creative writing, and is also dean of students.

Uotila was introduced by student council president Luke Pattison who called him, "our friend."

Uotila offered some advice to the class, reminding them "success is your vision, not everyone else's." He also discussed the importance of a good work ethic. "Don't be afraid to work when you're broke. No work is beneath you. Work hard and people will notice it."

His advice covered a wide range, from taking care of health, to watching out for alcohol and meeting new people and "never let fear hold you back."

He reminded students to listen to others for advice and ask questions. Many of them have been down the same road and have had similar problems, he said. "Be happy with what you have and call your mom."

Uotila's voice became emotional as he concluded his address, adding, "Know who you are, you are special."

Prior to the address co-valedictorians Abby Domitrovich and Amanda Pantti spoke to the large audience. They stressed they started years ago as competitors for the top spot, but "ended up as good friends." They embraced each other at the end of the address.

Michelle Perttunen delivered the salutatory address.

The welcome was given by superintendent-principal Jim Bobula. Following the addresses there was a slide show of the class of 2014 and diplomas were distributed by members of the board of education.

The prelude music and recessional were presented by the school band under the direction of Ben Mayer.


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