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Members of the Worthington High School Class of 2014 celebrate during Friday’s commencement exercises in the WHS gymnasium. (Gordy Moore/Daily Globe)

WHS graduates 139 in Friday night ceremony

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WHS graduates 139 in Friday night ceremony
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

“Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But—because I knew you—I have been changed for good.” – Lyrics from “For Good” from the musical “Wicked”

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WORTHINGTON — Worthington High School (WHS) staff and administrators gave a hearty send-off to 139 members of the Class of 2014 at the school’s 127th annual commencement ceremony Friday night.

“You made it,” pronounced WHS Principal Paul Karelis in his welcoming remarks.

“I have observed your class over the past four years accomplish many great things, and now it is your turn to walk through the many doors of life.”

Dressed in black gowns and crimson stoles — 23 of them highlighted with gold cords signifying highest academic honors and 24 with white cords denoting honors — the eager seniors appeared alternately nervous and excited before processing to their places on the gymnasium floor to the Trojan Band’s steady strains of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

“Your class motto — ‘Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail’ — speaks of your time at Worthington High School,” said District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard.

“Take that and move forward with whatever life may bring you.”

Landgaard introduced the seven District 518 school board members, who shared the daisy-bedecked stage with WHS Communication Arts teacher Kris Besel, the class’ chosen faculty speaker.

Besel, a 17-year WHS staff member, teaches the school’s popular Film Studies class and framed her comments around a movie her students view and analyze — “Dead Poets Society.”

“The English teacher [in that movie], John Keating, tells his students, ‘Carpe diem,’ or seize the day,” said Besel. “Your future is waiting for you."

Besel urged the Class of ’14 to “explore the world, your education and yourself,” and to travel both physically and mentally.

“Only you can be the author of your book and your future,” she reminded.

Senior members of the WHS Concert Choir, directed by Kerry Johnson, sang the National Anthem and, later, “For Good” from the acclaimed Broadway musical “Wicked.”

“Wicked” addresses the back story of the Wicked Witch of the West, and appropriately, Class of ’14 secretary and student speaker Ariana Lopez centered her speech on lessons learned from the Wicked Witch — a role Lopez herself played in the 2014 WHS musical “The Wizard of Oz.”

“The first lesson the Wicked Witch shares is to remember all that’s been given to you and don’t take it for granted,” said Lopez. “We don’t always realize the many opportunities given to us at Worthington High School, and even the ability to have a high school education.”

Lopez also advised her peers to be persistent — “Find your passion and live it, pursue what you want in life,” she noted — and to remember that sometimes simple solutions can solve life’s big problems.

“Know your own weaknesses and focus on your strengths,” Lopez encouraged, observing that if the Wicked Witch had been mindful she could be felled by water, she would have banned it from her chambers before Dorothy arrived.

Karelis invited two exchange students to stand for recognition: Lars Opaczek from Crailsheim, Germany, and Frida Lundestad of Norway. He also mentioned John Martin, who represented Worthington in Crailsheim during 2012-13, and Jaron Sternke, who is currently in Crailsheim.

While the ceremony was surely special for all of the graduates, it was perhaps somewhat sweeter for a few, including Will Dudley, whose mother (District 518 Board of Education Clerk Lori Dudley) presented him with his diploma, and Abbie Landgaard, whose father personally moved her mortar board tassel (as well as those of her fellow graduates) from right to left.

“It’s always fun to see the kids graduate and enter a new chapter,” assured Superintendent Landgaard, who was marking his 11th commencement as the local school district’s top administrator.

“This is starting to be a routine for me, but all the commencements are enjoyable,” he added. “I like seeing the kids when they come off the stage, and it’s a little more special when your own child is one of those graduating.”

Jon Loy, director of the WHS band program, led his student musicians — including senior members — in the regal “Fanfare & Flourishes” during the night’s program, and the underclassmen logged plenty of playing time with “Pomp & Circumstance,” plus smoothly performed preludes and recessionals.

Senior class officers of the WHS Class of 2014 are Alex Purdy, president; Rachel Drietz, vice president; Miranda LeBrun, treasurer; and Lopez, secretary.

As throngs of friends and family members moved to greet the new graduates with hugs and flowers following the ceremony, the final words of student speaker Lopez seemed to linger in the air: “Remember the gifts given to you in life, remember your roots, and remember the final lesson Dorothy learned: ‘There’s no place like home.’”

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