71 Witt-Birn grads take their next steps in life

Tears fall, confetti flies as the Class of 2023 is dismissed once last time
Luke Reimer

The Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School gymnasium was filled with family members, friends, students, teachers, administration and school board members as the 2023 graduation class received their diplomas on May 26.

Festivities kicked off with 2023 class president Taylor Bergner welcoming the audience to the gymnasium, as well as thanking everyone who has shown support for getting the class to where they are today. She also talked about what growing up with 70 of her other classmates has meant to her.

“As I stand here in front of you all, I find myself growing sentimental, nostalgic and, most of all, thankful,” said Bergner. “Fights, make-ups, tears, laughter — I could not remove these people from my story if I tried, nor would I ever want to.”

Rather than mourning the goodbye, Bergner asked each senior and audience member to try and celebrate the memories they have made together.

“Growing up alongside one another, we have essentially taught each other what it means to be people. More importantly, we have taught each other what it means to be a friend,” said Bergner. “In that way, we will truly never leave one another. We will live on in the lessons that we have taught each other and the memories that we have shared. For that reason the first and biggest of my thank yous belongs to all of you. Thank you truly from the bottom of my heart.”

Guest speaker Chris Gunderson was the next one to take the stage as he shared some memories of his graduation 45 years ago, while giving the class some advice to take into their next steps in life.

“Someone told me a long time ago, when you are going after something, don’t ask how you are going to do it. Ask why,” said Gunderson. “If the why is important enough, you will find the how. If you say, ‘I am going to live there,’ somebody is going to say, ‘How are you going to do that?’ When you set a goal for yourself and when you start moving forward, there will be people who will doubt you. You will have struggles, but keep the vision clear because your mind will open up possibilities once you set that goal.”

Summa Cum Laude graduate Alexander Centeno took the stage next to reflect on his 13 years in the school district, while highlighting some books that played a major role in his life.

“I have had great experiences at this school and have been fortunate enough to have had exceptional people to have taught and helped me become the person that I am today, as I find the reason why,” said Centeno. “The first book that I picked out is ‘The Millionaire Fastlane’ by M.J. DeMarco. The premise of this book is how to get rich fast, and let me tell you, it is very difficult to get rich fast, but it is possible that starts when you find your purpose. To be honest, I still don’t know what my purpose is, but I set goals to set a foundation of seeking my purpose later on. I am willing to bet that the majority of seniors are in the same boat as me. To find your purpose is difficult and takes many embarrassments and failures to achieve it.”

Summa Cum Laude graduate Harry Nowinsky followed Centeno to talk about the hard work and determination that the class put into reaching this milestone.

“My fellow graduates, congratulations,” said Nowinsky. “Our 13 years together and lifetime of possibilities cannot be translated into a speech. Today marks the day of all great things to come for the Wittenberg-Birnamwood Class of 2023. Today is a milestone, today is a celebration and today is a starting point. Side by side, we have grown up together, and while we all go our separate ways, we share the same start. We will look to today as a measurement of how far we have come as we now honor the endless possibilities of how far we can go.”

Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School Principal Stuart Russ finished out the ceremony by officially declaring that the Class of 2023 students are, in fact, graduates.

“Our Class of 2023 has persevered through a global pandemic and come out on the other side with individuals who have been recognized on the national level for academic success and individuals, groups and teams who have demonstrated excellence in the arts and athletics,” said Russ. “The future is bright, and I am excited to see the great things that you will do once you begin your next chapter. Board of education, families, community members, it is my pleasure to formally announce that the students before you have officially have completed the graduation requirements set forth by the state of Wisconsin and the Wittenberg-Birnamwood School District. Class of 2023, you are dismissed.”