Editor’s note: For those who weren’t able to attend the Osakis High School graduation program on May 24, here are the student speeches that were made that night.

The Review thanks the Osakis School District for providing these texts.

“Welcome,” by Morgan Rach

I would like to welcome everyone here to the graduation ceremony for the class of 2019. Graduates, we have worked year after year to get to where we are now. We have undergone trials from simply learning to read to wrapping our heads around the complexity of our American government. For some, tears may have been shed over friendships, family struggles, and even homework. However, we all managed to make it here today. For that, I can say truthfully that I am proud of every single one of you, and I hope you are just as proud of yourself. You earned that seat, you earned that cap and gown, and you earned your diploma. Everyone, even those of you sitting in the stands to support your graduate, have walked down your path of life in such a way as to bring yourself to this very moment.

The loved ones here today have made this day possible for us graduates. Your paths of life have not only affected your successes and failures, but ours as well. You helped us understand the world and how to live in it. You pushed all of us to be the best we could be. Without you, there is no telling where some of us would be now. For your love and guidance, the class of 2019 thanks you.

The teachers of Osakis High School have also walked down their own paths of life. Your paths have brought you here, to Osakis, Minnesota, the town many cannot pronounce, much less find on a map. If you had never made your way here to educate us in the best way you know how, we would have been lost. We would have been without someone to teach us the wonders of this crazy world we live in. For your patience and support, the class of 2019 thanks you.

Finally, the cooks, janitors, paras, secretaries, and everyone else that keeps this place running deserves a big thank you. If your paths of life had not brought you here, this school would be unable to function. You all make sure the environment we graduates have grown up in is safe and friendly. You haven’t spent your days here filled with hate. No, instead, you all have worked to spread goodwill and compassion to us students. You are the glue of this building. You hold everything together. You may not consciously think of that, but I believe the graduates sitting here can agree that it is true. We thank you for all you have done.

Our paths of life have brought every single one of us through the doors of this building today. Everyone’s story and path is unique. Everyone takes on different adventures and tackles them in their own way. Considering how different everyone has walked down their path, it is astounding that you all made it here. Thank you for walking your path, if at least for a little ways, with the class of 2019. We thank you by welcoming you to this important ceremony in our lives.

“The Past,” by Kylie Anderson

We, the class of 2019, are here, graduating and moving on to the next steps of our lives. Here we are on what is probably the most exciting and maybe even the scariest days of our lives thus far. Some of us have spent all of the last 13 years here in this very building, while others have been elsewhere. Yet all our paths lead us to spend some varied length of time together. Our journey together has not been smooth, but actually rather bumpy. But despite it all, we survived.

We survived the era of paper and pencil. We survived the sledding hill and the playground with little to no lasting trauma. We still have arms despite wearing so many silly bands that our hands would turn blue. In seventh grade we figured out how to open our lockers and get to class on time (well, most of us anyway). We survived the IPads, and then the Chromebooks too, and learned that Notability on the Ipads is way better than Kami on the Chromebooks. We made it through the night we slept with bats and wolves on the Ely trip. We survived the era of “what does the fox say”  without going crazy, as well as all the other obnoxious song and dance trends, and we are still standing despite all the times the floor became lava. We made it through the school lunches every day, even this last year without a la carte and Friday treats. We survived tenth-grade English despite not being able to do Hamlet because we were the guinea pigs for the new research projects. We made it through years of a library with boring furniture and a whole year of the lounge when it was just wooden and plastic chairs. We entertained ourselves in the lounge when the TV was just for looks but not for use. We survived the first casual homecoming and midwinter dance, and we are still here despite the crazy winter of 2019. And most importantly, we are still graduating even after we procrastinated every homework assignment and paper we had to do.

Each of these memories and experiences shaped us into the people we are today. They built our character, formed our personality, and molded our values. They gave us friends and enemies, made us laugh or cry, and sometimes pushed us to our limits. Yet despite the ups and the downs, we made it to today with the help of Mrs. Maddock’s stickers, of course. Now we have a foundation on to which we can build the rest of our lives. Despite how bittersweet this day is, we will always have these memories to look back on when we are wishing that days were as simple as having naptime and recess all day instead of being filled with the endless decisions that we don’t want to make.

So thank you, teachers, for guiding us on this journey, for filling our heads with knowledge-- because knowledge is power-- and for supporting us in all our hobbies, dreams and interests. Thank you for believing in us and never giving up, and for having such passion for your jobs. And coaches, thank you for all you have done to build us as athletes, people, and leaders. Sports hold some of the best memories for many of us, so thank you for everything you give to your programs. I’d also like to thank my parents and family for being my rock, for being my biggest cheerleaders, and for supporting me no matter what.

Lastly, I want to thank you, class of 2019, for coming on this journey with me. For being a shoulder to cry on, a friend to laugh with, and a soundboard for endless rants and complaints. I am proud of each and every one of you and all you have accomplished, and I wish you all the best of luck in all of your futures. Stay strong, work hard, grow up, but never forget the memories you have made and the people you made them with. Thank you.

“The present,” by Adam Petrich

Why does it feel like I'm flying,/ somebody wake me at last/ for I'm right on the edge of a wide wide world.../ and I look at so many faces/ in a place I never dreamed I would be,/ ...and I’m fighting back the tears,/ yes I'm fighting back the tears on graduation day./ Still this is rather amazing/ summa cum laude and all,/ ...and I'm fighting back the tears,/ yes I'm fighting back the tears on graduation day

That is a portion of the song “Graduation Day” from the musical Daddy Long Legs. I thought it would be appropriate to mention that song on this day.  This day brings so many emotions in all of us: maybe joy, sadness, or I just want to leave. Regardless of our feelings, where we go from here is up to us.

Earlier I mentioned the phrase summa cum laude. This phrase is Latin for “with highest distinction”. With high distinction comes great expectations, and we are ready for it.  When I think of those with high distinction a few people come to mind. Stephen Hawking, Satoru Iwata, Walt Disney, and Stan Lee. They were influential figures in their respective fields of theoretical physics, video game development and the world of superheroes. Yet these figures did not live to see their greatest accomplishments come to life.  Stephen Hawking never saw the first picture of a black hole. Satoru Iwata wasn't there for the launch of the Nintendo Switch. Walt Disney never saw the opening of Walt Disney World. Stan Lee wasn't there for the premiere of Avengers: Endgame.

We can learn one thing from all of these people: it isn't about what we build today but what we leave for tomorrow.  We are also making history every day. The class of 2019 was the first class to have technology grades 7-12, Mrs. Ferris’s last careers class, Mr. Beste’s first American history class, first year with yearbook under Mr. K, Mr. Hunter’s first community action research project, Mrs. Maddok's first Calculus 1 class, and the first grade to have eight people ranked first in the class.

When we look at what we are doing right now in the present we do not always see the point.  Doing notecards for your 13 page research paper, watching lectures for government, or figuring out how fast a triangular trough is filling up when the water reaches a certain height while water is flowing in at a certain rate. Yeah, only six of us took calculus.  But as said in the hit broadway musical Hamilton, “It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see”. No matter how hard something is today, it is worth creating a brighter tomorrow.

As we leave to become scientists, doctors, and engineers, we will always remember fighting back the tears on graduation day.

“The present,” by Shea Olson

I want to start this speech by thanking everyone for putting in the hard work that is required to get here. Making it through high school is no easy task, so we should all take a moment to appreciate this accomplishment. I would like to also take a moment to express my appreciation for the staff and family members that helped to get us to this point. You probably worked just as hard, if not harder than us, to allow us to experience this accomplishment.

Believe it or not, we actually learned something in the last four years. Although I’m not sure if anyone actually remembers anything from college calculus, we have indeed learned valuable life lessons from waking up at the crack of dawn to come to this building every day. We have learned that the Earth was once PANGAEA, that Georgia 11 point font is almost the same as Times New Roman 12 point font, and that movie days are the best days. Most importantly, we have learned that everyone has a different view on life, and we must respect that. Now we are being set free to share this newfound knowledge with the world.

High school is about so much more than just graduating from it; there are so many things we should be celebrating today. High school is about the memories made in the classroom, on the field, and with the friends we have made along the way. One day we will look back at this moment and smile, but we will not forget the countless days leading up to this moment.

I have grown up with all of the people sitting before me today. I know that each and every one of us here today is special, everyone is important, and everyone will add something to the world one day. Although the future is fast approaching, let us all take this time to savor this very moment for what it is worth. In a few hours, we will be done with high school, and that is something to be thankful for.

“The future,” by Elizabeth Pahl

Back when I was a third grader, I was only reading at a beginning first-grade level and had been diagnosed with a learning disability.  I would not have predicted that nine years later, I would be speaking to you all as one of Osakis' valedictorians. For me, this moment demonstrates how none of us know what our future will hold.  It contains the unknown and the unexpected. This can be scary as we wonder several things: Am I on the right career path? Will people like me? Do I have what it takes? How will laundry get done now without mom?

All of us have already experienced some form of adversity in our lives, and we know there will continue to be difficult moments.  But here is the great news . . . every one of us has a future, and that is something to celebrate! Each day we wake up, we have the opportunity to become better versions of ourselves and to improve the world with our existence.  Each of us has unique talents, interests, and personalities that deserve further cultivating. Together with our loved ones, the Osakis school and community have not only believed in our worth and potential but have spent time, money, and energy challenging and supporting us.  Just this last week, our community came together to send our boys' track and field team down to the state meet in style, and teachers pardoned our severe case of senioritis.

I used to think that the adults in my life just wanted to take all the fun out of my day and torture me with algebra homework, ridiculous rules, painful music lessons, and endless vegetables. Now I know that they saw more potential in me than I understood or wanted for myself. The adults in this gym believed that by helping us develop knowledge, self-discipline, resilience, and caring, we would have the essential tools to attempt and succeed at whatever goals we set for ourselves.

After graduation, our class will embark on different paths. Some of us will enter the workforce while others will continue their formal education or defend our nation.  Our journeys will be different, but we will all experience times when we make mistakes, do something dumb, trust the wrong person, or grow weary of life struggles. It is during those moments of self-doubt that we can recall how much the Osakis community demonstrated their belief in our potential. They have invested resources in us not only because we are an awesome class . . . which we really are . . . but because our individual strengths and achievements are vital to the community's stability and depth.

Tomorrow's future gives us the opportunity to further expand our skills, talents, and interests as we work to develop our potential. While doing so, we become productive members of society who will be able to pass on the resources we have received from others.  So let's spend our futures looking for opportunities to grow, take risks despite fears, and stride confidently into the unknown. Class of 2019, keep driving forward!

“Farewell,” by Brooke Pfeffer

Class of 2019, this is it. This is the moment in time where each of us should take a look around at the people sitting next to us in a graduation gown. Take a look at the faces of those in the chairs and bleachers around you; family, friends, staff, and other loved ones. Every person in this gym has played a part in shaping the lives and characters of the young men and women of the Class of 2019. While this special moment in time may quickly come and go, I would like to point out its importance in our lives.

High school graduation is one of the most exciting stepping stones that someone can experience. This day marks the closing of a chapter, but more importantly, the beginning of another. As a class, we have grown together for most of our lives. Together, we have learned, made mistakes, and best of all, created unforgettable memories. I can confidently say that each and every single member of the graduating Osakis Class of 2019 has the potential to accomplish extraordinary things. This, however, would not be possible without the support and guidance of many special people.

First and foremost, I would like to recognize our parents. You have been our foundation of who we are today from the very beginning. You were the ones who planted the seeds of our morals and beliefs and taught us that we should always stay true to them. You were the ones who taught us how to walk, kissed our bumps and bruises, took us to uncountable practices, games, and other school activities, helped us through the difficult times, and celebrated with us through our successes. Through the years, you were our examples and role models, our teachers and coaches, but, most importantly, our supporters. You pushed us to accomplish things we never could imagine, and pride is now displayed in all of your eyes. Words cannot express the gratitude and love we have for your commitment in raising us into the young men and women presented today. I also would like to recognize our other family members, along with other friends we hold near and dear in our lives. Thank you for being with us every step of our journey up to today and in the future.

Next, I would like to recognize our Osakis Public School staff and faculty. The hard work, dedication, and sacrifices you make is what is being reflected here today. Without you, we would not have gained the treasured gifts of knowledge and support that have attributed to our success. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know all of you throughout the years. Thank you for the extra time you have put in, away from your family and loved ones, to ensure that we received the most valuable experience possible. I also would like to recognize our coaches and mentors for pushing us to our limits and out of our comfort zones. You not only taught us life skills such as teamwork, but you gave us the chance to explore our true characters and build upon them. We are forever grateful for the foundation that Osakis Public School and the surrounding community has constructed in our lives.

Class of 2019, I am thankful for every single one of you. While many of us have been looking forward to this moment since the day we watched High School Musical III, I believe our moment is much more special, because it is ours. This is likely the last time we will all be together in the same room, so I ask that we all cherish these final moments. This isn’t a goodbye, it’s rather a see you later, as all Minnesotans can never truly say goodbye. New adventures, challenges, and opportunities lie ahead. Class of 2019, this is our moment to step into the world as leaders in speech, in life, in faith, and in love. This is it. This is that moment.

Congratulations Class of 2019. Good luck and farewell.