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The first high school graduation of the year
I am and will always be proud to be a Chieftain
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POTOSI — Potosi High School’s commencement was held two weeks earlier than usual to accommodate the summer building project.

That theme of dealing with the unexpected or unusual followed through into Sunday afternoon’s speeches.

Co-valedictorian Ryan Schmitz was going to close his speech with a quote … until he couldn’t find the quote in his notes.

“Well, it looks like I’m missing a paragraph or two,” said Schmitz, “so I’ll end it with that.”

Before that, Schmitz gave what turned out to be an ironically appropriate statement: “We have a fresh blank page ahead of us. It is up to us to take a pen and write our own stories.”

Schmitz mentioned the Class of 2016’s “many memories together, including class trips, FFA, Wyalusing State Park, and “sports, musicals, plays and forensics. … The bus rides were a memory in and of themselves.”

Potosi principal introduced co-valedictorian Madelyn Hawes as having interests that included “not doing her homework, which she obviously did.”

Hawes began her speech by saying, “Hopefully all my papers are here.” She then added, “You don’t want to sit here and listen to another put-you-to-sleep speech.”

So Hawes mentioned most of her classmates — “we were always each other’s biggest supporters,” she said — and teachers, saying about the latter, “even though we always pushed your buttons and took things too far, we wouldn’t be here without your guidance and support.”

Hawes concluded with: “As long as you’re doing what makes you happy and what you love, you’re doing it right.”

Joe Steiner, the Class of 2006’s valedictorian, returned to give four pieces of advice, beginning with “Find a mentor … a job mentor, a school mentor, or a life mentor … someone who has already been there, done that.”

Steiner also suggested students “keep a positive attitude,” noting in his health care career that “people who think they will get better usually do.” He also suggested students “be where you are and live in the moment … put the cellphone down and enjoy who you’re with,” and “don’t be afraid to fail — mistakes shape you into a better person. If you don’t fail, you’re not challenging yourself enough, and you will never realize your true potential in life.”

Steiner added that “many people are governed by their fears. … Ask yourself what your life would be like if you decided to not think about what other people think about you.”

Steiner added, 10 years after his own graduation, that “I am and will always be proud to be a Chieftain, and I think you should be too.”

Belmont and Iowa–Grant will hold their graduations May 27. Platteville High School will hold its graduation June 5.

For videos of the speeches, go to the Videos section of