MHS Class of 2015 declares ‘this is it’
“This is it” – the end of high school, the start of their future – was a recurring theme as the Merrill High School Class of 2015 received their diplomas during commencement Friday night in the MHS fieldhouse.
The class was introduced by Principal Shannon Murray, who said, “We told them four years ago to take adavantage of the opportunities they would be given, and they did.”
This year, 213 Merrill High School students earned college credits in progams offered through the high school and universities. Thirty-four graduating seniors took classes at University of Wisconsin-Marathon Center or Northcentral Technical College. Over 100 earned work experience through the school’s state recognized apprenticeship, internship and co-op programs in fields including health, business, finance, architecture, agriculture, information technology, athletic training and logistics.
“It’s a smart group, it’s a competitive group and certainly it is an accomplished group,” Murray said.
The Class of 2015 included 10 students who graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
“In this group is a National Merit Scholar winner, Herb Kohl Scholarship winner and a student with a perfect SAT score,” Murray said. “These accomplishments are rare and this class should be very proud.”
During the scholarship and awards ceremony last Wednesday, $1,3 million in scholarships were awarded.
“Merrill has always had a very solid scholarship program due to the generosity of our community,” Murray said, “but $1.3 million is a remarkable accomplishment and this class is certainly deserving of that.”
In extracurricular activities, members of the Class of 2015 competed at the state and national level.
“They earned top awards at these competitions and they represented our school and our community very, very well,” Murray said.
Members of the class also gave back with volunteer work both in the school and the community, Murray added.
Murray said he’s proud of the Class of 2015.
“They work hard, they play hard and they are simply great people,” he said.
Merrill Board of Education Presidentt Jen Seliger read the Dr. Seuss book, “Oh, the Places You will Go” as a message to the class. The book refers to avoiding the pitfalls in life.
“Life isn’t problem-free,” Seliger said. “Try to make lemonade with the lemons life gives you. Balance as many aspects of life as you can and, lastly, remember your roots, the roads of Merrill that started you on your way to your future, whatever that may be.”
Class officer Seth Tautges urged his classmates to always ask “why” as they travel through life.
“In everything we do and everything we see, we must never stop asking questions,” he said. “When we ask why, we gain a deeper understanding of the world around us. We grow as people and we develop the knowledge to do whatever we may choose to do to the best of our ability and with the utmost passion.
“As we leave here today, Class of 2015, remember the whats and the hows of what happened at Merrill High School, but at the same time always remember to ask the question ‘why?’”
Class officer Kaitlin Berry asked her classmates to hold on to the memories of high school. Their legacy, she said, will be in the lives they touched in any way, big or small.
“What people will remember you for is now you touched their lives and I think we as a class have a pretty great legacy to leave behind in that exact way.”
Berry also told the class that it’s okay to be afraid, but they should all face those fears.
“The truth is I’m afraid, you’re afraid, and we’re all always going to be afraid,” she said. “What I should be telling myself is to be afraid, but do it anyway.”
MHS Athletic Director Rick Bonnell was chosen by the class to be the keynote speaker at graduation. Bonnell was a teacher at Prairie River Middle School when the Class of 2015 were in sixth grade. He spent all three years at the middle school with the class, and then moved with them to the high school four years ago when he took his present position.
“I have been with this class for over half their educational career,” Bonnell said. “I feel like I know them almost as well as I know my own children. We’ve been through a lot together. It’s been a privilege, a pleasure and joy watching you grow up, seeing your successes big and small, watching you perform in the classroom, on the field, on the stage, on the courts, on the track, watching you have fun, watching you support one another, watching friendships develop, watching you bounce back from disappointments or getting knocked down, but my greatest privilege, pleasure and joy has been watching you leave your mark on Merrill High School.”
Bonnell left the class with the following advice: “One, make the right choice, make good choices; two, don’t ever settle, strive for happiness; and three, learn from your mistakes.”