The Redwood Valley High School Class of 2019 will gather together for the very last time this coming Sunday (May 19) when it celebrates the milestone moment known as high-school graduation.
According to Rick Jorgenson, there are 80 students who will don the cap and gown and walk into the Redwood Valley gym at 1 p.m., and as the principal of those students for the past four years Jorgenson said he has appreciated the privilege he has had to get to know them.
“This is a wonderful class,” said Jorgensen. “They have been very respectful, friendly and kind, and they leave a good example for younger students to follow. They have been positive role models for the whole school.”
Jorgenson said the fact that 26 of the seniors in the Class of 2019 will be graduating with honors demonstrates their academic success as well as their commitment and dedication to work hard as students.
That dedication is also indicated in the fact that nearly 30 members of the class achieved a 95 percent attendance rate during their senior year and had zero disciplinary issues.
Jorgenson added the class will also be remembered for its successes in many areas, especially in athletics. He added he has never made so many trips to state tournaments as he did this year. Each of the graduates in this year’s senior class will have their moment on the stage Sunday afternoon when their name is called and they are presented their high-school diploma.
For the public, many of those faces will be familiar, but some of them, who also helped to define the Class of 2019, may not have been as visible.
Here are a few of those students.
Janessa Whitaker has been involved in tennis, basketball, golf, choir, National Honor Society as a student at RVHS. During her time in high school Whitaker said she really enjoyed being part of the tennis program, adding for her being involved has been a lot of fun.
After earning her diploma, Whitaker, the daughter of Sherry Whitaker and Steve Whitaker, will be attending South Dakota State University where she will begin the pursuit of her plan to become an occupational therapist. Whitaker said she was inspired to follow that career by her grandmother, adding she wants to be able to help people like her to live the best lives that they can.
McKenzie Wertish has been involved in volleyball, softball, basketball, FFA, choir, theater and SADD. Being part of the FFA program has been something she has enjoyed as a student, adding she has learned a lot through her involvement in it.
“We are like a big family,” said Wertish.
Wertish said she will take the memories she has of competing in state basketball and at the state level in FFA with her when she leaves, adding those are experiences she will never forget.
Wertish, who got involved in theater for the first time as a senior, said one of the important lessons she has learned is not to be afraid to step out of her comfort zone.
The daughter of Mike and Deb Wertish has also been involved in her community in various ways from helping her mom who works at an assisted living facility to spending the past 15 years as a Czech folk dancer.
“I have been dancing since I was three,” said Wertish, adding that experience has helped her to learn more about her culture.
Wertish plans to attend the University of South Dakota in Vermillion to pursue degrees in physical therapy and athletic training, adding her experiences in the community and at school confirmed her decision to pursue that career path.
Grant Liebl has been involved in cross country, theater, tennis and band, and he said his involvement in cross country has been the activity he has enjoyed most. The people in that activity made it fun for him.
Liebl said being involved in activities has taught him to always do his best in whatever he is doing. The son of Jerome and Donna Liebl is going to attend Central Lakes College in Brainerd to pursue a degree in health care administration.
Liebl said his favorite class in school has been health, and that has prompted his interest in that field. While he wants to be involved in healthcare, Liebl said he prefers to be involved on the administrative side rather than being more hands-on.
Sam Kahnke has been involved in cross country, track and robotics, and said he really enjoyed being part of the cross country team, adding he really felt he was part of a family in cross country. The coaches, he added, made sure that everyone was able to be involved, and he really appreciated that.
Unlike the majority of his fellow seniors Kahnke is not going right to college. Instead he is going to serve his country as a member of the United States Air Force.
“Right now college is not for me,” said Kahnke, adding he believes the Air Force provides him the best opportunity for success at this point in his life.
Ironically, Kahnke said, he believes that being in the Air Force will help to keep him grounded. The son of Lynn and Jeff Kahnke said a recent medical issue has postponed the start of his time in the service, but he believes that within the next few months he will start that part of his life.
Connor Thordson has been involved in band and choir, as well as tennis during his time in high school, and he said his experience in music has made the biggest impact on him.
For Thordson, music has always been important, adding regardless of how his day is going he always knew that going to his music classes would help to change his attitude for the better. One of the memories he will take with him was the opportunity he had to attend the Dorian music festival.
“There were 1,000 others there who really care about music, too,” said Thordson. “That was an amazing experience.”
Thordson also got involved in the Special Olympics as a member of the Unified football team, and he said through that experience he has made friends that he would not have ever made any other way.
Looking back, the son of Kim Thordson and Kirt Serbus said he is going to miss the teachers he has had over the years who have pushed him to succeed all along the way.
Thordson is planning to begin his college experience at Southwest Minnesota State University and will transfer to South Dakota State University to complete his degree in mechanical engineering.
An opportunity he had through the career mentorship program, which had him working at Daktronics, confirmed that path for him.
The public is encouraged to come to the graduation ceremony this Sunday to help the members of the Class of 2019 celebrate the culmination of their high-school experience and begin the next chapter of their lives.