Lights! Camera! Graduate!

Hurley graduation production nears completion

 

May 20, 2020

Tom LaVenture/Daily Globe

Cameron Schuelke leaps as he tosses his graduation cap following his individual graduation ceremony Monday at Hurley K-12 School. The COVID-19 shutdown prevents a class graduation and so the separate ceremonies are being compiled into a virtual graduation to be posted online Saturday. With Schuelke are, from left, Mark Zarzyski, uncle; Ángel Minkin, mother; Kevin Schuelke, father; Linda Zarzyski, aunt; Gail Schimke, aunt; Hannah Kreimer, sophomore and girlfriend; and grandparents Sharon and Dennis Schuelke.

By TOM LAVENTURE

[email protected]

Hurley - For nearly a week the 46 graduating Hurley High School seniors and their families have been going through personal graduations at the school as part of the 126th commencement program that will be virtual and presented online Saturday.

By the end of Monday, the school administration had 25 of the 46 graduates completed with the ceremony, photos and videos in half-hour appointments that started late last week, said Melissa Oja, the middle/high school principal. What was thought to be a mere process to produce an alternate ceremony put together by computer really turned out to be something meaningful and special for all involved, she said.

"I think for us, the thing that we didn't realize was going to happen with this is it really has become such a personalized experience for our students," Oja said. "I think a lot of people thought that it was just going to be these steps going through this virtual commencement to create this video, but ultimately it's really a graduation ceremony for an individual student." 


The main difference between the individual ceremony from a class ceremony was that Oja and school counselor Sarah Eder prepared remarks to share about each student as they were introduced to the stage. The students still get to walk the stage but there is a personal moment where they pause to hear the administrator's observations on their best qualities and potential.

"We were able to talk a little bit about each graduate and just echo some of our feelings and sentiments about them," Oja said. "Where in a traditional ceremony with everyone here we don't have that opportunity."

The other difference that turned out to be extraordinary was the student choosing who presents him or her with the diploma on stage, she said. The students have received diplomas from groups of siblings, individual or both parents or grandparents, the school administrator, principal or counselor.

"It's been a mix across the board, and that's an opportunity that students never get," Oja said. "So, through the whole COVID-19 pandemic there have been some silver linings in things and I think ultimately that whole family atmosphere has been something that has made this worthwhile for a lot of families."


Cameron Schuelke, a graduating honor student, will study transportation logistics and management this fall at the University of Wisconsin at Superior. He received a bronze cord for academic achievement and will be part of the academic and awards slideshow to be posted online Friday to list the accomplishments of students.


Asked what he thought of the virtual graduation experience, he said it was the best of what could be made from a messed up situation. It would be preferable to graduate with his classmates but he said all the students know that the school district provided a unique experience that they'll all remember.

"Honestly, it's really heartwarming," Schuelke said. "Just looking back and hearing that people notice the small things like whether you're saying hi in the hallway or being polite and going that extra step to get things done. It really does mean a lot and it can't get much better than that."

Ángel Minkin, who is Cameron Schulke's mother, said it was a wonderful event. 

"It was a great ceremony," she said. "I'm very proud and trying not to cry." 

His father, Kevin Schuelke, agreed. 

"They did an excellent job," he said.

Forrest Wiedbrauk, a graduating senior who was present with his family and girlfriend, said he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in January. He will have a 14-day quarantine before reporting to basic training in August. 

"I had always planned to join the military," he said.

Asked if the graduation ceremony felt like the real thing, Wiedbrauk said, "I wouldn't know."

He did enjoy the experience though and heard Oja describe him as a natural leader who stood up for what was right. After the ceremony, he described it as "relaxing."

Pamela Morella, a professional photographer who used to work for the school district, had a booth set up for graduation portraits. She also photographed the diploma presentation and outdoor photos with the family.

A wedding job would have prevented her from helping out with the project but the event was postponed because of COVID-19, she said. 

"I had three kids graduate from Hurley and people always ask me to take the photos of their kids because they knew I'm here," Morella said. "I'm extremely proud of the students."

Oja said the virtual program will be posted at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 23. 

The program includes a senior slideshow created by senior student Sam Leoni; a mix of videos, photos and speeches from the school board president, administrator and principal. The Star Spangled Banner and the class song will be performed by the school choir and Silver Express members.


The student council president will recite the pledge of allegiance. There will also be remarks from the school salutatorian and valedictorian.

The video also includes Shannon Peterson, the advanced placement English teacher, who composed a poem that will highlight every graduate. The school counselor, Sarah Eder, will talk about where the students are going after graduation. 

By TOM LAVENTURE

[email protected]

Hurley - For nearly a week the 46 graduating Hurley High School seniors and their families have been going through personal graduations at the school as part of the 126th commencement program that will be virtual and presented online Saturday.

By the end of Monday, the school administration had 25 of the 46 graduates completed with the ceremony, photos and videos in half-hour appointments that started late last week, said Melissa Oja, the middle/high school principal. What was thought to be a mere process to produce an alternate ceremony put together by computer really turned out to be something meaningful and special for all involved, she said.

"I think for us, the thing that we didn't realize was going to happen with this is it really has become such a personalized experience for our students," Oja said. "I think a lot of people thought that it was just going to be these steps going through this virtual commencement to create this video, but ultimately it's really a graduation ceremony for an individual student." 

The main difference between the individual ceremony from a class ceremony was that Oja and school counselor Sarah Eder prepared remarks to share about each student as they were introduced to the stage. The students still get to walk the stage but there is a personal moment where they pause to hear the administrator's observations on their best qualities and potential.

"We were able to talk a little bit about each graduate and just echo some of our feelings and sentiments about them," Oja said. "Where in a traditional ceremony with everyone here we don't have that opportunity."

The other difference that turned out to be extraordinary was the student choosing who presents him or her with the diploma on stage, she said. The students have received diplomas from groups of siblings, individual or both parents or grandparents, the school administrator, principal or counselor.

"It's been a mix across the board, and that's an opportunity that students never get," Oja said. "So, through the whole COVID-19 pandemic there have been some silver linings in things and I think ultimately that whole family atmosphere has been something that has made this worthwhile for a lot of families."

Cameron Schuelke, a graduating honor student, will study transportation logistics and management this fall at the University of Wisconsin at Superior. He received a bronze cord for academic achievement and will be part of the academic and awards slideshow to be posted online Friday to list the accomplishments of students.

Asked what he thought of the virtual graduation experience, he said it was the best of what could be made from a messed up situation. It would be preferable to graduate with his classmates but he said all the students know that the school district provided a unique experience that they'll all remember.

"Honestly, it's really heartwarming," Schuelke said. "Just looking back and hearing that people notice the small things like whether you're saying hi in the hallway or being polite and going that extra step to get things done. It really does mean a lot and it can't get much better than that."

Ángel Minkin, who is Cameron Schulke's mother, said it was a wonderful event. 

"It was a great ceremony," she said. "I'm very proud and trying not to cry." 

His father, Kevin Schuelke, agreed. 

"They did an excellent job," he said.

Forrest Wiedbrauk, a graduating senior who was present with his family and girlfriend, said he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in January. He will have a 14-day quarantine before reporting to basic training in August. 

"I had always planned to join the military," he said.

Asked if the graduation ceremony felt like the real thing, Wiedbrauk said, "I wouldn't know."

He did enjoy the experience though and heard Oja describe him as a natural leader who stood up for what was right. After the ceremony, he described it as "relaxing."

Pamela Morella, a professional photographer who used to work for the school district, had a booth set up for graduation portraits. She also photographed the diploma presentation and outdoor photos with the family.

A wedding job would have prevented her from helping out with the project but the event was postponed because of COVID-19, she said. 

"I had three kids graduate from Hurley and people always ask me to take the photos of their kids because they knew I'm here," Morella said. "I'm extremely proud of the students."

Oja said the virtual program will be posted at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 23. 

The program includes a senior slideshow created by senior student Sam Leoni; a mix of videos, photos and speeches from the school board president, administrator and principal. The Star Spangled Banner and the class song will be performed by the school choir and Silver Express members.

The student council president will recite the pledge of allegiance. There will also be remarks from the school salutatorian and valedictorian.

The video also includes Shannon Peterson, the advanced placement English teacher, who composed a poem that will highlight every graduate. The school counselor, Sarah Eder, will talk about where the students are going after graduation. 

 
 

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