A New Beginning - from The Messenger
Fort Dodge Senior High Valedictorian Anthony Wagner encouraged his fellow classmates to use their talents to help make the world a better place for not just themselves, but everybody else.
Wagner spoke during the FDSH graduation, held at Dodger Stadium early Sunday afternoon.
In all, 201 FDSH seniors graduated during the ceremony.
Wagner told his fellow graduates that their lives are just beginning.
“But don’t think about this day as the end of something,” he said. “Think about it as a new beginning — a fresh start and a whole new world of opportunity in front of us. We’ve been working towards this day for years and finally made it and get to share this great time of celebration together.”
While Sunday is a significant day in the lives of all the graduates, Wagner said it shouldn’t be the last significant day.
“This day may seem to hold a lot of significance in your life right now, but down the road, I wish you all success to the extent that this day of high school graduation will be just a small stepping stone toward the ultimate goal,” he said.
Many people consider high school graduation an ending point. He told his fellow graduates that he doesn’t believe that will happen to him or anyone else in the class.
“Each of you will move on to bigger and better things, no matter what route you take from here,”Wagner said. “You may have more failures than you have successes, but as the famous Jackie Chan once said, life can knock us down but we can choose whether or not to stand back up.”
He encouraged everyone to use their talents to make the world a better place.
“As we have all seen in our years of growing up, the world needs our help,” he said. “It needs young leaders to rise up and pursue the great things in life that they have a passion for. We are those leaders, and we will achieve our goals.”
Wagner also asked his fellow graduates to remember a quote from Dwight Schrute, a character from the TV series “The Office,” known for his unique sayings.
“I hope that you all go on in your life with the same confidence as Dwight Schrute, who once said, ‘I am ready to face any challenge that might be foolish enough to face me,'” Wagner said.
Class Salutatorian Emily Asay, citing the book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” said that no matter what path her classmates choose, it will be important.
“Some of you will go into a career where you will use almost nothing you have learned or you have done in high school, while some of you will continue to be educated for the next decade, and that is perfectly alright,” Asay said.
She added that the world needs a variety of people in a variety of jobs, otherwise society couldn’t function.
“The world would not be successful if everyone became doctors, because no one would be there to teach them in school,” she said. “Our society would crumble if everyone became astronauts because there wouldn’t be anyone to build their ship or direct them from behind a computer. Every position and every job in our world is important, but only if it is done well. Too often in our lives do we settle for mediocrity.”
Asay recalled her own experience with doing the bare minimum in school just to get by, and said it wasn’t worth it.
“I often found myself in my teachers’ classrooms at the end of every term asking them what I needed to do in order to achieve the grade I wanted,” she said. “Because of this critical flaw in my work habit, I caused myself unnecessary stress and discomfort. Not once did I first exert all my energy into succeeding until it was almost too late for me to accomplish what I wanted.”
There will always be challenges, no matter what path is chosen.
“What I’m asking for each of you and from myself is to face those challenges head on and full of the ability to adapt, change and overcome,” Asay said. “It is not enough to simply get by in life because that does not progress you or the world. Strive for excellence in everything you do, large or small. Choose a path, overcome the obstacles, strive for excellence and never stop growing.”
Superintendent Jesse Ulrich, who is just completing his first year as superintendent, joked around with some of the students before getting serious and saying that everybody in the graduating class matters.
“Be proud to say Fort Dodge is where you grew up,” Ulrich said. “Be proud of the lessons you’ve learned here and the relationships you have built. In my heart, I know that you are a class that will positively change this world for the better. However, that is up to you and every decision you make once you leave the walls of this stadium.”
He added the graduates have made FDSH proud.
“Also know we love you,” he said. “Know that we want you to not only say Fort Dodge is where you grew up, but we also want you to say Fort Dodge is your home. We’ll also be here for you because you matter, and we need you to make a positive difference in our community as well.”
FDSH Principal Kenneth Hayes, who is leaving at the end of the school year, highlighted three people he considers his heroes; his father, his brother and his son. From those heroes, he learned hard work, how to live life to the fullest, and to have faith and build relationships.
“Your success in life after high school is grounded in those simple truths,” he said. “If you want something, go after it. Don’t let fear stop you. Let life be about opportunities taken, not regrets held onto.”
Hayes went on to say that life is about people.
“You are here on Earth to serve and be with others,” he said. “Continue looking around to see who you can influence for good and look around to see who needs you as their hero.”
Graduating seniors said they learned many life skills while attending FDSH.
Senior Lucas Williamson said he’ll take a strong work ethic with him.
“I think that’ll really benefit everything in life,” he said. “If you work hard at anything, you’ll be successful.”
Senior Keziah Henkelman said she’ll remain involved in activities, but not too many of them.
“You can do a lot of things that you love, but don’t overwhelm yourself because then you’re going to be spread out too much,” she said. “You’re not going to be able to focus on one thing and give it your all because you’re going to have so many other things.”
In the farewell speech, Ellison Yoder told her fellow graduates that time goes by fast, and thanked all the teachers for their help in reaching graduation.
Yoder also encouraged her friends to never forget where they came from.
“I hope when you all gain success down the road, you think of where it all started,” she said. “This town, which comes with numerous characters and history, has really built a legacy on what being a Dodger is. Being a Dodger means always being respectful, working hard for your goals and having pride in your community around you.”
FDSH Class of 2019
Number of graduates: 201
Valedictorian: Anthony Wagner
Salutatorian: Emily Asay
Class color: Yellow
Class motto: “If it does not challenge you, it will not change you.”