Wolfe says Linn graduates are resilient, and will persevere

By Neal A. Johnson, UD Editor
Posted 6/24/20

Linn High School Counselor Shannon Wolfe on Sunday told graduates they have withstood several challenges in the course of their lives, and that will serve them well in the future.

“As a …

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Wolfe says Linn graduates are resilient, and will persevere

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Linn High School Counselor Shannon Wolfe on Sunday told graduates they have withstood several challenges in the course of their lives, and that will serve them well in the future.

“As a class who entered the world in the wake of 9/11 and now graduating high school during a global pandemic, there is no doubt these events will shape you,” she said. “Your resilience and ability to persevere will get you through even the worst of times. Although your paths may look very different, I know each and every one of you has the potential for great success. Some of you are going on to universities, and others to community colleges or technical schools, and a few of you have chosen the military or workforce. Don’t think for a minute that one option is better than the other. Success is not measured by the number of degrees you hold, but your passion, drive, and desire to learn.”

Wolfe added that 10 years ago, she was graduating from high school and experiencing many of the same emotions felt by Sunday’s graduating class. 

“The truth is, I can’t stand up here and pretend that your graduation experience is just like mine or any other graduating class because as you know all too well, it’s just not,” she said. “Your senior year was stripped from you in a moment’s notice. Track, baseball, golf, the spring play, Dungeons & Dragons, choir and band events, FFA, FCCLA, FBLA, contests and competitions: every single one of you have missed out on something this year and for that I am truly sorry.”

While browsing the web in search of a catchy quote to share with you, Wolfe came across the “7 Rules of Life,” which she said really resonated with her, and be worth mentioning. “However, I know as teenagers, anytime you hear the word ‘rules’ your mind tends to shut off. I also thought maybe a few things were missing, so here are some words of wisdom for you.”

1. Make peace with your past so it won’t mess up the present; 2. Communication is the key to any relationship; 3. Time heals almost everything, give it time; 4. Don’t compare your life to others and don’t judge them. You have no idea what their journey is all about; 5. Stop thinking too much, it’s all right not to know the answers. They will come to you when you least expect it;  6. No one is in charge of your happiness, except you; 7. Smile. You don’t own all of the problems of the world.; 8. Remember that you are not alone; 9. When something feels hard, remember that it gets better. Choose to move forward, don’t let anything stop you; and 10. Be true to yourself. Never waiver from your values, beliefs, or faith.

“My ‘words of wisdom may not apply to you at this given moment, as you are celebrating this milestone in your life,” said Wolfe. “However, once the celebration has commenced and life gets back to ‘normal,’ if we even know what that is anymore, life has a way of throwing us curve balls when we least expect it. Just remember, the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

Wolfe thanked the class of 2020 for allowing her to be a part of their life. 

“From the conversations in my office to the smiles and waves in the parking lot as I released you at the end of the day, thank you for the memories,” she said. “The future holds no promises, but rather mysteries and surprises. What you’ve learned will prepare you for both. Congratulations and all the best for the future.”

Superintendent Dena Smith noted that 2020 graduates have had a unique final year. 

“To say you have had a senior year unlike any other graduating class before you would probably be an understatement,” she said. “On the one hand, it was very disheartening, I’m sure, because you missed out on some things you would normally get to do as seniors. On the other hand, I’m quite certain you probably got to do some things that other classes didn’t get to do while you were out of school for eight weeks. Nonetheless, it has been a year unlike any other, and we are so thankful and so grateful we are able to be here tonight to celebrate your accomplishments.”

Linn graduates earned a total of $615,460 in scholarships, plus one student will be eligible for $81,300 in funding through the GI Bill as a member of the military. 

“I would like to congratulate the class of 2020,” said Smith. “You have learned and achieved a great many things, and you are just beginning your life journey.”

Smith told graduates to do the right thing, even if it’s not always the popular thing. “People may try to take many things from you in life, but they can never take your honesty and integrity,” she said. “Those can only be lost if you give them away. Second, be happy. Life is far too short to live unhappy. Let the small things go, and live your story. Be proud of who you are, and confident in what you do. You are the only you out there, and you are meant to be you. You should be proud of who you are, and what you hope to accomplish. I am very proud of you.”

Principal Tim Bower told graduates they would always have help from the people who love them.

“You have so many who love and support you,” he said. “If you ever need anything, find one of us.”

Co-valedictorian Rachel Keilholz said time seems to have flown by on the way to Sunday’s graduation.

“If you had a time machine, and you asked the class of 2020 where you wanted to go at the beginning of the school year, I’m pretty sure you would have chosen this day,” said Keilholz. “If you had asked the same question the day we were supposed to run the mile in P.E., I know for a fact our answer would have been graduation day. It seems like just yesterday we were freshmen, thinking four years was a long time, and we sure had a long way to go.”

Then, as sophomores, Keilholz said the class started to get the hang of high school, and as juniors, realized there was still much to learn.

“By the end of the year, we realized the clock was ticking, and we were next,” said Keilholz. “We couldn’t wait for senior year. Little did we know it would be one for the books. Our class has had its fair share of rough patches to get here, but we made it.”

Keilholz said friends and family showed a lot of support along the way. “When I was struggling, my mom would inspire me by telling me to improvise, adapt and overcome. My dad, on the other hand, told me to suck it up and fight my own battles.”

She added that her class is resilient. “We survived a tornado, a pandemic, and most heartbreaking, the loss of many loved ones who were supposed to be with us here today,” Keilholz said. “Although they aren’t here in person with us today, we hold them in our hearts, and know they are watching over us.”

Keilholz said she and her classmates are friends. “Even though we may be going our separate ways, this won’t be the last time we see each other. The class of 2020 wouldn’t be here without the help of many people. I think it’s safe to say we have left our mark on them too. We’ll never be the same people we were before we came to Linn High School. Above all, we are proud to have grown up in a small town, where everyone knows everyone. Thirty years from now, if you ask us what we would do with a time machine, there’s a good chance we’d end up in high school again. But since time travel hasn’t been discovered yet, focus on the future. Life is what you make it. Possibilities, they’re endless. Ambition, it is there. Courage, we all have it. What will we do with it? The good news it, it’s up to us. I can’t wait to see how everyone is doing at our class reunion in 15 or 20 years.”

Co-valedictorian Hannah Koenigsfeld encouraged classmates to build a successful life.

“Although not traditionally, we moved through our four-year journey, and this is the moment when we start making major decisions for our lives, by ourselves,” said Koenigsfeld, who thanked staff and family for their support over the years. “Thank you to our dedicated instructors for their passionate teaching, encouragement and advice. We’ve come to the end of this stage of our lives.”

Koenigsfeld offered a few points for classmates to ponder.

“Opportunity is a lot like hard work,” she said, noting that she worked several jobs, often at the same time, and learned valuable lessons. “I never had a job I was better than. My last job always led to my next, and I never quit a job until I had another job. That’s why opportunity is a lot like work. Hard work opens new doors.”

Being beautiful is another facet of life, Koenigsfeld said. “Being beautiful is being humble, kind and simple. You are better than no one, so be humble. If you’re humble and kind, no one should put you down.”

Living a simple life means understanding there are people who are no smarter than you, Koenigsfeld said. “We can learn this from Walt Disney.”

Koenigsfeld explained that Disney first sold newspapers to help his parents pay the bills. He was drafted to serve his country in World War I, and upon his return, worked for a competitor as an animator until a contract fallout led him to start his own corporation.

“You can build your own life,” Koenigsfeld said. “Build a life, don’t just live it. Along the way, let go and enjoy the ride. Don’t worry about the next thing you have to do.”

Co-valedictorian Andrew Voss thanked everyone who supported graduates for the first 18-ish years of their lives, and told his classmates not to live life just daydreaming about the future.

What scares me more than anything is dreading every single day I didn’t try,” he said. “My grandpa Roger once said, ‘Do what you love and you’ll never go to work a day in your life.’ When you get hit with adversity, don’t give in. Remember, you are the author of your own life story. Don’t give anyone else control to write it. Try not to judge others. Don’t be afraid to put in the hard work, and don’t be afraid to learn from your mistakes and say, ‘I’m sorry’ and ask for help. Class of 2020, may your life story be love, and full of great people and much happiness. It’s been an honor and a pleasure.”

Salutatorian Nicole Deeken told classmates she was trying to decide what to say, considering the challenges her class has been through this year.

“The first thing that came to mind is what has had the biggest impact on our class,” she said. “Personally, the biggest impact on us has not only been what the challenges we have faced this year, but for the last four years of high school. Every situation we have been through has taught us a new lesson. When we got into high school, we didn’t know what to expect.”

As time went on, every test failed taught lessons for the next test, and friends were made, with bonds that will last a lifetime.

“We learned from these experiences, and used them to grow into the people we are today,” Deeken said. “As students,  we have all had, and will continue to have, many bumps in the road. Although not everyone’s burdens are the same, we all carry them.”

Deeken said the class of 2020 has faced many challenges similar to other students, and some that are unprecedented.

“The obstacles our class has faced have helped to make us stronger, and prepared us for a bright future,” said Deeken. “They’ve helped us grow into the smart, responsible, passionate young adults we are today as we move on to the next chapter of our lives. I’m proud to say I’ve made this growth with my classmates and teachers at Linn High School. Never forget the memories we have made, the teachers that left an impact on us, and that you are always a Linn Wildcat.”

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