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Four schools, four commencements
hats in air
Members of Platteville High Schools Class of 2012 send their hats skyward outside the high school after commencement Sunday.

The classes of 2012 at four high schools ended their high school educations in the past two weekends.

The largest and latest commencement ceremony was at Platteville High School Sunday afternoon.

Faculty speaker Tom Caccia, who is retiring as a technical education teacher, told the graduates, “You and I are finally getting out of high school.”

Caccia talked about the value of patience and of struggle: “Be patient. It takes a long time to achieve something good. … The fact is, we can’t solve all your problems. Some struggles you have to solve by yourself.”

Caccia mentioned other high school teachers and staffers — Jeffry Schave, who taught about Civil War battles with “passion”; Jason Julius and the process of solving physics problems; Robert Serres, who got students to “keep running when you didn’t think you could walk another step; and Cindy Callahan, who proofread for Caccia.

“Be smart, be safe, and always be Hillmen,” said Caccia.

High school principal Jeffrey Jacobson echoed Caccia when he repeated words from a PHS alumnus: “walk like Hillmen, talk like Hillmen, and act like Hillmen.”

Platteville graduate Logan Cooley was attending his sixth consecutive commencement, the first five of which were with the orchestra.

“Believe me, the view is a lot better here,” Cooley said from the podium. He remembered “countless rounds of ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ possibly the most boring song ever played. Ever.”

The past two weekends also represented graduation for foreign-exchange students.

Tomas Leitao said his year at Platteville was a year “that I can say with no doubts was the best year of my life,” despite a winter he described as causing “frostbite on my Portuguese nose.”

Leitao described the foreign exchange experience as “being an outsider that couldn’t be more inside. … I’m not the same person I was nine months ago. I’ve changed. And it’s all your fault.”

Leitao told graduates to “live the life you want to live. Dreams aren’t for children; they’re for those who have the guts to pursue them.”

The two weekends of graduations began at Belmont High School May 25.

Salutatorian Molly Bockhop noted that words show emotions, using as examples “fun,” “the times we spent making ridiculous videos for English class … all those times we were having as much fun as allowed”; “sad,” “leaving each other”; “stressed out to the maximum” to “getting everything completed for college and work”; being “afraid” to leave “good old Belmont High School, because everyone cares about us”; and “grateful,” “for the many people who have been there for us in good and bad times.”

Two commencements were held May 27.

Two of Potosi High School’s three valedictorians, Elizabeth White and Thomas Keene, spoke.

“What I do want for each graduate and members of the audience is a good life,” said White. “What it comes down to is helping others” through “sometimes a simple act of kindness.”

Keene assigned a letter of the alphabet for all 26 of his classmates, from A (Audrieonna Runde) to Z (Thomas Neuhaus, who Keene claimed “Zzzzzzzzz’d” through physics class), including B (the third valedictorian, Kristi Bartels), J (for Jamie “Ingenious” Langmeier, who is going to UW–Platteville in mathematics or engineering), N (Northland College, where White is going), O (“Officer” Cody Saylor, who is going to Southwest Wisconsin Technical College in Criminal Justice) and U (“Up on a power pole” for Kyle Scholl, who is going to SWTC in Electrical Power Distribution).
Iowa–Grant salutatorian Jacob Yelinek dedicated his speech to his grandfather, who died in the fall of 2011. He noted that his first day at the high school included falling off his lunch table seat.

Yelinek noted the change that took place in the class’ four years, with two school district superintendents, three principals and three wrestling coaches. He said that of the 10 youth wrestlers who started in the fall of 2001, six of them were part of the Iowa–Grant team that wrestled at the state team tournament.

“We may have fallen short that day, but our memories will always be great,” he said.

Valedictorian Samantha Simon took the audience on a tour of the Class of 2012’s 13 years in school, starting in kindergarten and the daily naps on blue mats, saying goodbye to “all your fabulous playground equipment” in fourth grade, getting instruction on conduct during high school dances in eighth grade, “the atmosphere under the lights for football games, or theme nights at volleyball or basketball games,” beating Cuba City in volleyball twice in the 2010 season, the state team wrestling tournament and the livestock judging team at the state FFA competition.

“No matter how far we travel from Iowa–Grant,” she said, “our memories will always be with us and bring us back to the little school in the middle of the cornfield in the middle of nowhere.”

Jannan Roesch contributed to this story.