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In a commencement ceremony designed to help the graduating students and their families look to the future, there was a singular focus on one student who wasn’t there.

The Baker High graduating Class of 2021 was missing one student, Will Rost, who passed away during the year.

Valedictorian Hannah Goerndt reminded the people inside the Longfellow School gymnasium of the loss of a friend.

“Will Rost was truly a motivator and an inspiration to everyone in the class. And he was our friend. Thank you Will for joining us for however short your time was. We all miss you very much,” she said.

The valedictorian also noted that Sunday’s event could be the last time they are all together. “As much as I know we are all ready to go out into the world. I am going to miss you all.”

“We are heading to work for a secondary education or join the armed forces,” she said, noting that others may follow different paths.

“I want each and every one of you to find where you belong. I want each and every one of you to find what is  … just right,” she said.

For the salutatorian, Olivia Gunderson, the key was deadlines. “As life continues, I am sure that deadlines will never completely go away,” she said. Instead, they change to things like taxes and bills. “All those things run on different schedules.”

“I encourage you to meet every upcoming deadline with the success I know all of us at Baker High School possess,” she said.

The keynote speaker, Carol Hadley, taught in the Baker school system for more than 20 years and has seen most of the soon-to-be graduates grow up.

“Some of you probably thought this day would never come,” she told her audience of graduating seniors and their families in the stands.

She focused first on two words – perspective and direction. “No two people have the same perspective on anything. Perspective is huge and we all do have a different perspective. It is important that no matter what you are doing in your life, whether it is family, friends, co-workers or many of the people around you, do remember that your perspective is not the only one,” Hadley said. “Because yours is yours, it does not make it superior.”

Perspective can be constantly changing, she added. “Your life experiences have a way of doing that. Maybe if you take the time to observe them or even visit with them, they can help you see things in a different light.”

She also got the students to raise their hands again – this time to a question if they had heard a question about their plans after graduation. Most of the graduating class raised their hands.

“Keep your hands up in the air if you have come to hate that question....”

Only a few hands dropped.

Then she focused on what was behind the feeling – making a plan for the future.

“If you throw that plan out there and you don’t follow through or succeed, you fear others will be judging you,” Hadley said.

“There is very rarely a plan that goes as it should,” she warned the Class of 2021.

“As a teacher for 26 years, I was full of plans. Lesson plans. Practice plans. Game plans. Those of us who are Type A, when things don’t work out how they should they caused me to doubt my abilities first, cause anxiety, which led to undeserved pressure that I would then put on my students and my athletes.”

“So change your plan.... to a direction,” she explained.

“Take a direction and see what you may find along the way. If life is an itinerary or a master plan, we tend to often miss some really amazing things,” Hadley said, noting that some miss beautiful opportunities because of ‘The Plan.’

“Pick a direction, but be flexible. It is not a failure, but a gift (when you alter direction). It will enable you to find what you are truly looking for. Don’t be afraid of that.”

She asked the students to stand, turn around and wave to their people who had had their back for the last 13 years. “You can give them a thumbs-up. You can give them a hoot. You can give them a wave.”

“Your family, your friends, your churches, your teachers, your coaches and your community wish you only the best.”

Hadley also had the students find something left for them under their chairs. In it was something from the Rost family. “It is from your friend and classmate Will. His family wanted you to have a keepsake to take with you as a reminder.”

“The second thing in the envelope is a $5 bill. When I was your age, my family gave me a quarter. It was just in case … there were these things at the corners where you could call people. If you needed something or it was an emergency, you could put in this quarter and get your parents on the line. I could get somebody I needed.”

“That five dollar bill … put it somewhere. Don’t spend it,” she warned. That way, it will be there when you really need it.

“Maybe that gallon of gas or two gallons of gas might just get you where you need,” she concluded.

Then it was time for the 28 students to receive their diplomas and officially become the 2021 graduates of Baker High School.

Superintendent Aaron Skogen and Principal David Breitbach presented the awards and introduced the top scholars in the class.

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