Fort Dodge Community School District

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We Are Dodgers: 222 Graduate as FDSH Class of 2021 - from The Messenger

May 24, 2021

Nathan Rethwisch, one of the five valedictorians for the Fort Dodge Senior High class of 2021, said he and his classmates embody the characteristics of a Dodger.

"Once a mining town, Fort Dodge was built on the backs of fearless miners who started their days not knowing whether or not they would come back," Rethwisch said during his commencement speech at Dodger Stadium on Sunday. "One of the hardest and most unforgiving jobs in the mines was a dodger. A job that required fortitude, grit and determination.

"A dodger would light the last stick of dynamite then maneuver their way out of the mine while it was collapsing. A long time has passed since then, but these traits have been passed down through many generations in Fort Dodge. We are a tight-knit community built on the backs of bravery, courage and hunger. We dig in, we fight until we get the results we want and then move on to our next challenge."

Rethwisch said soon he and his classmates will be moving on to the next chapter of their lives. But he wanted them to remember where they come from.

"Never forget where you come from," he said. "Remember the grind and hunger that were instilled in you and use it to continually want more."

Josh Meier, a valedictorian, said he will remember all the friends he's made in high school through activities like band, choir, soccer and cross country.

"It's been amazing to see our class of 222 graduates be one of the most successful and involved in recent school history," Meier said. "From what I've seen and heard from coaches, directors, teachers, our class will be greatly missed."

He complimented his classmates for the number of different activities they have participated in.

"Since freshman year, we have grown into a class of leaders, musicians, athletes, scholars, performers, workers, contributors and everything in between," Meier said. "Although not everyone has had recognition or sought out involvement in high school, we are all here as equals about to enter into this next chapter of our lives."

Meier asked that his classmates make a positive impact on those around them.

"As we go forward, I implore you not only to chase after your dreams of making a difference through meaningful work, but to also make a conscious effort to positively change the lives of those around you through the little things," Meier said. "People remember character and the way they are treated by others. So the best way to show who you really are is to treat them with respect and show a smile. Because who are we? We are Dodgers."

Prior to commencement, Karen Karmenta said the one thing on her mind was not taking anything for granted.

"Don't take anything for granted," she said. "People who don't like high school - in reality, enjoy it because it doesn't last for long."

Dallas Richardson said she was nervous and excited to graduate.

"It makes me nervous for the future," Richardson said. "Sad, too. I loved being involved and getting to know almost everyone at the school."

Matt Kuhn was in a good mood.

"I technically graduated in November, so I've been done for a while," Kuhn said. "I'm feeling good. Happy to see my classmates."

Carter DeLanoit, a valedictorian, said he's "happy to move on and see where life takes me."

During his speech, DeLanoit said he was proud of the class for battling through the pandemic.

"We all faced the COVID pandemic and the uncertainty of online learning," DeLanoit said. "Despite all of these obstacles, we have persevered. And as I look at the class of 2021, I see a group of people that has found success in the face of hardship. A group that has been involved in a plethora of activities. A group who despite it all has put in the effort to walk across the stage today.

"Now that doesn't mean, our difficulties are over. We continually face obstacles in our life. When we are older, we will face the challenge of living on our own. Not to mention any political and social unrest that currently faces all of us. But I know everyone here is ready to take on those challenges. Whenever you think about the FDSH class of 2021, know that despite everything we faced, we are ready to take on the world. When? Right now."

Staci Laird, FDSH principal, said there was an added emotion for her as she reflected on the class of 2021.

"I look out at this group and I feel admiration," Laird said. "Seniors, you didn't just make it through high school and all of its typical challenges, you made it through high school during a pandemic. A pandemic which altered our day-to-day lives and made everything about school a little more challenging. You did it all with grace and perseverance.

"Class of 2021, you can step into your future confidently knowing you've already learned many lessons that come with adversity. And knowing without a doubt, you can do hard things. Congratulations, graduates."

Superintendent Jesse Ulrich addressed a few students individually during his light-hearted speech.

Jokes aside, Ulrich complimented Sawyer Springer for the person he has become.

"In all reality your father is smiling down on you today because he couldn't be more proud of the man you have grown into," Ulrich said. "Congratulations."

Springer's father, Steve Springer, passed away in May of 2020. He served on the district's Board of Education.

Ulrich asked the class to remember where they come from.

"Truth be told, this is a class that is very special," Ulrich said. "Please know regardless of where you go, regardless of what you do, this town and community is proud of you. The special thing about public schools is this: you represent our community. As you walk across the stage today you are walking into the future. I have no doubt you will change the world for the good. Regardless of where you go or what you do, be proud of where you came from. Be proud to be a Dodger."

Grace Hartley, a valedictorian, said some of the most important lessons learned in school were during the last year.

"I believe the most important lessons we have learned have come from this past year," she said. "After that fateful Friday the 13th in March of last year, we had to learn how to stay connected with each other even when we weren't face to face. We learned how to put the safety of others before ourselves and most of all we learned how to deal with the unknown. We didn't know what would happen, but despite this we continue to work hard and persevere and now here we are graduating.

"I believe graduation means we should carry these lessons with us wherever we go. We know how to embrace the unknown and move forward with courage, wisdom and strength."

Gracie Miller, a valedictorian, wanted her classmates to enjoy the moment of graduation.

"Wherever you are at with your emotions, take a moment to soak it all in," she said. "Really be here. Because we made it. You will remember this moment for the rest of your lives, so take a moment to reflect and be present in the moment that we have been working toward since we were little.

She added, "Despite our differences, we all have the same core identity. We are the class of 2021, the students that faced the pandemic and the little kids who are suddenly not so little anymore. Most importantly, we are Dodgers."

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