MHS graduates ‘achieved like crazy’185 seniors will become alumni Sunday afternoon.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
An exemplary group.
That’s Mitchell Superintendent of Schools Joe Graves’ opinion of the Mitchell High School Class of 2012.
At 2 p.m. Sunday, 185 students will take part in graduation ceremonies at the Corn Palace.
“These are students who took their high school careers very seriously academically and really challenged themselves. I think that was evident at the recent Senior Recognition Banquet,” Graves said.
“With this group we’re seeing growth in advanced placement course offerings and our ACT scores. They took it seriously and they definitely achieved like crazy.”
Graves isn’t worried that the class didn’t have as many perfect 4.0 grade point averages as some classes in past year. Six students tied for top academic honors this year.
“A 4.0 GPA provides a limited picture of accomplishment,” said Graves. “Because what you learn is actually more important than your GPA. I get discouraged when I see students dodge challenging courses to save a high GPA.”
Graves doesn’t think that will be case with this year’s seniors, but courses and student achievements are still being analyzed.
Following a school tradition, Mitchell seniors annually choose two fellow graduates to address the class.
This year’s commencement speakers are Tucker Volesky and Kathleen Serie. Both will be attending the University of South Dakota, in Vermillion, next fall.
If Volesky — who turned 19 on Wednesday — was feeling any stress about speaking to an audience of more than 3,000 students and family members, he betrayed no anxiety.
“I have my speech prepared, so it’s not as worrisome as you might think,” he said.
Tucker Volesky is the son of Mitchell mayoral candidate Tara Volesky, and Huron attorney Ron Volesky. He has two brothers and a sister. At MHS he was a four-year letterman in basketball, a three-time state qualifier in track and junior class vice president.
He will study political science at USD with a possible eye to a future in politics. As a child Tucker followed his father, a state lawmaker for more than 16 years, through the halls of the Legislature in Pierre.
“I’ve always had an interest in politics,” he said.
Volesky joked that his mother asked him to use the opportunity to make a campaign speech. He won’t.
“It’s an honor to be chosen,” said Volesky, whose topic will be “Today’s Hope, Tomorrow’s Future.”
“It’s about opportunity and how many people in this world don’t have the opportunities they need to succeed because they’re born into circumstances where they can’t achieve their full potential,” he said.
In his address, Volesky said he will try to inspire his classmates to create more opportunities for the less fortunate, so they can maximize their potential and make the world a place of hope for tomorrow.
Sure, said Volesky. “But the social and economic landscape has made it harder for some people to achieve and be successful. We have to have high expectations of ourselves if we’re going achieve great things.”
His classmate Serie believes in action.
She is the daughter of Sue and Paul Serie. Her mother is a customer service representative for First National Bank of South Dakota and her father is warehouse manager for WinField Solutions of Alexandria. She has a brother and a sister and plans to study journalism at USD next fall.
Serie, like Volesky, submitted her name to speak at graduation. Even so, she was surprised when her name was selected.
“It’s really cool my class chose me; it’s a huge honor,” she said.
While the prospect of speaking before a large crowd is daunting, Serie, 18, said she enjoys being on stage. During her time at Mitchell High, the National Honor Society member participated in show choir, band and several theatrical presentations.
“I like speaking before people and I figured that if I decide to go into broadcast journalism that I should get used to speaking in front of a ton of people,” she said. “I also thought it would just be kind of cool to give the last word for the senior class.”
Friends gave plenty of encouragement.
Her speech, “The Prominence of Action,” stresses the importance of doing, and not merely talking.
“It’s about actions being more important than words,” she said. “You can’t just say something and not have an action to back it up. It’s basically urging my class to take action in their lives and never to just sit idly by.”
By way of example, “With today’s advanced technology,” she said, “it’s really easy to message someone on Facebook and say ‘We really need to hang out,’ but that’s never going to happen unless you actually do it. It’s really easy to tell someone something over a text or on Facebook, or Twitter — but not actually do it. We need to learn to take action.”
Six graduating seniors tied for their class’s highest academic honors, with perfect 4.0 GPAs. Their names and the colleges they will attend next year are: Anna Catalano, Central College, Pella, Iowa; Alison Day, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn.; Alexander Graves, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind.; Katherine Lazenby; Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa; Joshua Leland, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City; Tara Palmer, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.
The majority of MHS students will be heading off to 37 different colleges next fall, but 11 will be joining the workforce, another five will enlist in the military, and 10 are undecided on the path they will take, according to a report on the students’ plans.
Area colleges and institutions that will be attended by multiple Mitchell graduates next year include: Augustana College, Sioux Falls, two Mitchell graduates; Brown College, Minneapolis, Minn., two; Dakota Wesleyan University, 10; Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown, two; LifeQuest, Mitchell, two; Minnesota State University, Mankato, eight; Mitchell Technical Institute, 28; Northern State University, seven; South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, four; South Dakota State University, 29; Southeast Technical Institute, 11; University of Nebraska, Lincoln, three; University of Sioux Falls, two; and the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, 17.
Some said they will attend out-of-state colleges in Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.
The plants that will be in front of the podium Sunday are in memory of Jasmine Guevara and MacKenzie Degen. Both students would have graduated with the Class of 2012.
Guevara was killed by Alexander Salgado in November 2009. He was later convicted of the crime. Degen died in December 2008 when the car in which she was riding went off the Highway 37 and into Enemy Creek south of Mitchell.
Mitchell High School graduation
2 p.m. Sunday
The Corn Palace, 601 N. Main St.
Commencement speakers: MHS seniors Kathleen Serie and Tucker Volesky.
Mitchell Christian School
2 p.m. Saturday
Baas Auditorium, Mitchell Christian School, 805 West 18th Ave.