‘Dance like everyone is watching’

Speakers encourage persevering through challenges, having appreciation at SCHS graduation
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

Music and inspirational speeches preceded the handing out of diplomas to 177 graduates on May 26 at Shawano Community High School.

The commencement was Shawano’s 143rd, and the bleachers were filled with family and friends, with some spilling out into the aisles, as they wished the graduates all the best in starting a new chapter on lives. The class had six valedictorians, and each had something to say about the end of high school and where things would go in the future.

Jenna Ainsworth recalled how high school graduation seemed so far away when participating in youth sports and other programs. It still seemed distant, she said, even as classmates were getting their first jobs and fixing their first flat tires.

“Not only are we looking back at the steps that got us to this stage, we’re reflecting on what we will be remembered for,” Ainsworth said.

Riley Dreier noted that she and her classmates wanted to grow up so quickly so that they could live life, and that day had finally arrived. In that time, she said, a lot has changed in the world.

“We’ve seen abundant transformations to fashion, social media, not realizing we were transforming, too,” Dreier said. “We didn’t realize how fast we were growing up.”

Anna Etten spoke about instant gratification, the tendency to throw away future benefits to be satisfied in the here and now. She noted that instant gratification helps people to seek joy in the small things, but that it also causes people to lose sight of the bigger picture.

“The joy is over quickly, and then you have to start finding that next moment,” Etten said. “Therefore, when we stick to our plans, keep our sight on the bigger picture, and keep moving forward to achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves, we can find long lasting happiness because we’ve changed where we are in life.”

Madeline Heling discussed how she wasn’t real keen on the statement “Dance like no one is watching,” and she pointed out how it was bad because it encourages people to only shine when they’re alone.

“My advice for everyone today is to defy your parents, ignore your friends’ opinions and choose a future that you desire,” Heling said. “Life gives us so many paths to choose from, and I want everyone in the Shawano Class of 2023 to strive for your dreams on your own terms. Cross the stage, get your diploma and then dance like everyone is watching.”

Ania Hoffman said she has received “countless pieces of advice” from people about living her life, but one that she has taken to heart is to not buy a new car right off the lot. She noted that the car depreciates exponentially once it rolls onto the streets, and she encouraged her classmates to not view themselves like the car.

“I’d like to tell you right here, right now that your worth cannot depreciate,” Hoffman said. “Despite what you might believe, you can disappoint people and still be good enough. You can make mistakes and still be capable and talented. You can let people down and still be worthwhile to those you’re going to love.”

Aidan Preston told his fellow graduates that they need to be grateful for the opportunities they’ve had in and out of school, because they’ve shaped who the young adults are today.

“Whether that be friends, family members, coaches or teachers, they have enabled us to accomplish great things and given us lifelong memories,” Preston said.

Class president Andrew Herrmann also took the stage to speak to his classmates and admitted that he struggled a bit with his speech, but in the end it wound up being “perfectly imperfect.”

“There are some people who won’t like this speech no matter what I say,” Herrmann said. “Even worse, there are some who won’t take anything away from the speech. On the other side of that spectrum, I could have the worst speech prep, I could stutter through the entire thing and my mom, who is right over there, would be the proudest person in the gym, screaming at the end of my speech and just screaming with love.”

Superintendent Kurt Krizan, finishing his first year as the leader of the school district, told the graduates they have persevered through the challenges over the years and are now standing stronger than they were before. Krizan noted there are two ways to face adversity — as a buffalo or a cow.

“When a cow senses the storm coming from the west, they start to run toward the east, away from the storm,” Krizan said. As you know, cows don’t move very fast, so the storm catches up with them quickly, and without knowing any better, the cow continues to try to outrun the storm. Cows have been known to run through electrical and barbed wire fences to outrun the storm … maximizing the amount of pain, time and frustration. Now, compare that to the buffalo. When the buffalo see a storm coming from the west, they run towards the storm, charging directly into it.”