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Park Rapids Area High School Class of 2017

Kayla Branstrom and Adam Herberg "blow it up" during the recessional as they celebrate graduating with the Park Rapids Area High School Class of 2017. (Photos by Kevin Cederstrom/Enterprise)

Park Rapids Area High School held its 119th annual commencement on Sunday, graduating 98 students in front of a gymnasium full of family and friends.

Senior Class President Kaleb Carlson offered welcoming remarks and talked to his graduating classmates about finding what you love in life.

"Make your love something you value so much you are willing to stand up and fight for it. When I speak of love I speak of a virtuous love. I speak of love that comes from your soul, not love that spawns from material objects. Money, fortune and power can only give you so much. It may satisfy you, but it cannot make you truly happy. The love I speak of comes from family, friendships and faith."

Speaking to his fellow graduates, he recommended to not let go of the things you believe in. If you have certain goals or dreams to accomplish, "do not let others tell you what your goals or dreams should be."

Be humble, be kind, Carlson added.

Co-Valedictorian Myah Schultz reminded the senior class they've been through alot together.

"We've shared triumphs and heartbreaks, and jokes and secrets, and experiences and time. We've shared so much time together. Years of our lives we've shared. And we've spent those years forming relationships and made lifelong friends here. And though our time together is drawing to a close these friendships are not. As we go our separate ways and find our own unique niches we will continue to be connected."

Co-Valedictorian Olivia Fischer stood at the podium and said, "As we bring our high school careers to a close, we gather with family, friends and relatives."

She said the Class of 2017 is one to remember.

"It doesn't matter what medals and awards we have to our name. It doesn't even matter if anybody knows our name. What does matter is what we learned along the way. My dad once told me that life is a journey of discovery. We discover things through the experiences we have and the people we meet. Experiences like pulling an all-nighter doing homework. Balancing work, school and activities, and bonding over mutual feelings of being ready for school to be over. It's just high school, right? But it's more than that. It's a place where we discover pieces of ourselves and hopefully mature into respectable young adults."

Co-Valedictorian Lydia Kantonen said speaking to her classmates, whether they are entering college, the workforce or the military, what they've learned in high school is how to overcome challenges. From first learning to tie their shoes, someone along the way was always there to offer encouragement. The challenges have increased in difficulty, and now with high school coming to a close the challenges won't stop here, and neither will the learning.

"We have an ocean of opportunities ahead of us and a world that deserves the best we can give it."

Principal Jeff Johnson reminded the graduates the greatest strength they have as an individual is knowledge.

"Learning doesn't stop with graduation. Park Rapids has been your home for many years. Park Rapids Area Schools has given you the foundation to build your career and to follow your dreams. No matter where you go or what you do there are always challenges ahead of you. What I'm asking of each of you is to meet those challenges straight on with your head high and your heart wide open."

He encouraged the graduates simply trying to get by in life is not good enough and they must try and excel at everything they do.

"Do all that you can do to try and reach your full potential. Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself."

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