WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) --     WWG — Last Sunday afternoon, prior to the class  of 2014 commencement exercises, seniors waited in the halls of the school as their last formal act at WWG.

    After getting  their caps and gowns, flowers pinned, the seniors gathered in small groups chatting, while some took photos. All though you couldn’t tell it, their emotions were running high as they waited to march into the gym filled with friends and relatives.

    About five minutes before the ceremony began, they all marched down to the entrances of the gym and waited for the  band to start playing the  strains of Fanfare and Processional.



    Then the moment the seniors had been working towards the  past 13 years had arrived, as they marched into the gymnasium two by two at 2:00 p.m.

    After the seniors were all in place the band played the National Anthem under the direction of Mrs. Brenda Derickson. Following  that the band played the school song Go U Northwestern.

    The lights were then dimmed and a slide presentation was presented, prepared by Steffanie Ankrum and Shiney Her.

    Principal William Richards  introduced the senior speakers chosen by the  senior class, Steven Yang, and Alexander Burns.

    Steven  Yang introduced himself and started his address by saying, “Man we look good in these caps and gowns. It’s sad, actually, because we’ll only see ourelves together in them this one time.” He  told the audience, “if you don’t mind, I’m going to take a selfie. Smile.” This brought a good laugh from the audience.

    Yang first thanked the staff of WWG and administrators, especially their class advisors, and their parents who supported them through school.

    He spoke about being blessed to have been in an amazing class, some he had known since pre-school, and some only for a short time. He noted not seeing all of his classmates will take some time to get used to.

    He talked about the struggles in their lives some not so bad, like fighting over chocolate milk, to losing a classmate.

    He told his classmates, always remember who your real friends are. Not just the people you meet and bond with, but your family, because no one will ever support you more than your family.

    He talked about the eight principals of trust, which he learned from a speaker at Boys State.

     He concluded telling  his classmates, “thank you guys for learning with me, for teaching me, for spending your childhood and teen years with me, and ultimately, for growing  up with me. You guys are and will always be my second family. Always remember, “today is the best day to be a good friend.”

    Alexander Burns said, “When I take a look back at the last 13 years of my life here, I realize one  thing; we were the luckiest people in the world to go to school in such a great place.

    “Today is a day for us. For us to cry, for us to laugh, and for us to love at all the times we had in this place. Burns talked about his first day of school noting how happy he was, and now how sad he was to leave school.  Years from now he said he would remember how much we loved this place. He talked about the  things he would miss, the atmosphere, the staff, the classes, and even the lunch.

    He talked about the things he feared, “I was afraid that as soon as this day comes we will no longer  be a group, we were no longer going to be a class, we’re no longer family.”

    He wondered what he and his classmates will do with their lives. He noted his class has the potential to do great things with their lives. Some will become business men, bankers, accountants, mechanics and so forth, they will go on to do good for others and themselves.

    “I know this day will be one that we remember,” he said.

    He wondered what his class should do with the money they saved up. He thought maybe they could get Mrs. Kleven a walker, or who knows, maybe a Hoveround, he joked.

    In closing Burns took a moment to talk about their classmate Teng Yang who passed away over a year ago. “He was a great guy, and nothing would’ve made us happier than to have him sitting with the rest of his class today,” Burns said.

    Yang had a saying, which became the class motto, “Today is the best day to be a Good Friend.” I want to thank all of you for the memories and wish you all the best of luck in life.”

    Following the senior addresses, the WWG Choir, under the direction of Mrs. Constance Knott, sang “We Can Share a Dream.”

    Then the Charger Band performed “Pixar Movie Magic,” under the  direction of Brenda Derickson.

    Mr. Richards  introduced the high honor students, followed by Superintendent Loy Woelber introducing the commencement speaker Mrs. Beth Kleven.

    Beth Kleven, former teacher, started her address with a personal talk stepping down from the podium to address her former students. She told them, “Hey you made it! Hard to believe. You all look so spiffy-so ready to get that diploma and walk out those doors. But not yet, not quite yet. First one more speech.

    She had most of these kids starting  in eighth grade. She recalled when the school went from a K-4 school at both sites to a Jr - Sr High School and K-6 school. She remembers thinking, “oh no, the dreaded junior high, where teachers go to die!” She wondered what she would do with a bunch of squirrely, no idea what they are doing, emotion -driven, pimple laden 13, and 14 year olds? With all  those things attached, she said, “What a good time I had! Of course, at times, I would have traded all of you for a good cup of coffee, but there were few days like that.”

    She compared the problems of her generation with the problems  of their generation. Hers was an unpopular war, drugs, and the hippie movement. Theirs is about terrorism, an ever changing electronic world, media promotions of being an adult before they are adults, and the regular terrors of just growing up.

    She said, “for many of these students sitting in front of us, Sleep was just an option during  the school year.”

    She talked about the many extra curricular activities that took away sleep time early in the morning and many evenings. There was football, cheerleading, baseball, basketball, volleyball, track, golf,  and much more.

    “In addition to all the extra curriculars there, of course, was the school day,”she  said. “There was a reason for cranky kids, drowsy kids, kids who really weren’t with it some days.  For many of these very involved, very dedicated students, there weren’t enough hours in the day.”

    These students weren’t just in classes. They were thoughtful, involved kids willing to put in incredibly long days to achieve for teachers and coaches who were also willing because they cared. This group of young men and women represented WWG well, and learned necessary skills needed for their futures.

    “I salute you, Class of 2014. Thank you for sharing your time and talents with those of us lucky enough to have worked with you at Westbrook Walnut Grove,” she closed.    

    Following  the commencement address Principal William Richards presented the graduating class.         Diploma’s were presented by Chairperson Marvin Kleven.

    The Class of 2014 moved their tassels and threw their mortar board caps into the air. The class marched out of the gymnasium to the tune of Fanfare  and Processional by the high school band.

    The class formed a reception line in front  of the high school.