‘Hit play,’ says Park Rapids co-valedictorian

Living in the present is a theme of the school's 124th annual commencement program.

Tatiyana Smith shows joy as she collects her diploma from school board member Stephanie Carlson during graduation May 29, 2022 at Park Rapids Area High School.
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Park Rapids Area High School moved its 124th commencement indoors on May 29, due to rainy weather.

The school graduated 86 seniors, including six valedictorians: Kelsey Berghuis, Maeve Bolton, Sophie DeWinter, Allison Offerdahl, Sam Reish and Emily Schulz. Class president Amelia Berg was a salutatorian, along with Keely Peterson.

All eight students wore honor medals, and National Honor Society members and students in the scholastic top 10% of the class wore gold tassels.

The graduation program also recognized students who participated in the Panther Tracks program, completing courses aligned with their career goals.

Music during the ceremony was pre-recorded, including the choir piece “For Good” directed by Lucas Ford, a chamber choir singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” and the band pieces “Pomp and Circumstance” and “Midnight Escape” directed by John Cook.


In her welcoming remarks, Berghuis urged classmates to live in the moment and not become caught up in the past or future.

Co-valedictorian Sophie DeWinter indulges in a selfie with her classmates during her graduation speech May 29, 2022 at Park Rapids Area High School.

Offerdahl shared memories of her class’s experiences at the beginning of their school career. “We have not just made a lifetime of memories,” she said, “but we’ve made lifelong friends.”

Bolton applied lessons she learned as a tutor in a second grade class, noting that she learned more from her second time through second grade than her first.

DeWinter took advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to speak at a graduation to shoot a selfie with all her classmates in the background. “Keep working, keep striving and keep dreaming,” she urged them.

Jay Keezer, Isaac Knapp, Anthony Kucera and Mackenzie Laferriere walk in to the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" during Park Rapids Area High School graduation on May 29, 2022.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

Reish admitted he was wrong to doubt Principal Jeff Johnson when, during freshman orientation, he said the high school years would go by fast. He voiced amazement at the amount of success the Class of 2022 has already achieved. “I can’t wait to see how much we accomplish throughout our lives,” he said.

Berg announced the graduates’ names as they came forward. In a minor gaffe, the diplomas ran out before Berg could collect hers.

In her farewell remarks, Schulz said, “Remember that there’s more to life than school. There’s more to life than your grades, your job or what other people think of you. And ultimately, there’s just so much more to life than high school.”

While taking time to feel their feelings about the end of their high school years, Schulz urged her classmates to move forward with new experiences and opportunities.


“We must keep moving, because life never pauses,” she said. “This is why it’s especially important to take in special moments while we are still able. Because, just like we can’t rewind our lives to be kindergartners again, we also cannot fast-forward and become who we are meant to be. I think it’s best to hit play and let life happen around us and be engaged in our lives.

“Don’t let any moment pass you by, especially this one.”

Park Rapids Area High School took a break for school spirit-inspired fun on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 1.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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