Monday, July 6, 2020
Owatonna graduates and former football standouts, from left, Mason Rhoades, Mason Oland, Jake Miller, Matt Segler, Cole Deason, Nick Staska, Joe Edel and Joseph Stransky stand for a photo outside of the Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna following commencement ceremonies Sunday. Owatonna’s Class of 2019 included about 323 graduates.

A leg up on graduation

Student speakers offer insight for graduates

Graduation speakers Kismet Richardson and Carolyn Stauffer offered their fellow Class of 2019 classmates words of encouragement, passion and wisdom on Sunday at the Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna.

Richardson told her classmates to not let fear prevent them from new experiences.

"I learned this year there are no wrong decisions, only opportunities to learn about ourselves, our world, and to grow, and that must be remembered,” she said during her speech.

This past year was Richardson’s only year living in Owatonna after her family relocated from Massachusetts.

“I just moved to Owatonna and have only been a student there for one year, and wanted to use my personal experience involving major life changes and adapting to uncomfortable situations in order to relay to my classmates that college should be a fun experience, rather than a scary one,” she said. “Moving here was extremely nerve-racking, but I am so happy that it happened. I have met some absolutely amazing people and have made such great memories here.”

Richardson kept busy in her only year at OHS. She was involved with DECA, National Honor Society, theater, lacrosse, football manager and concert choir. She will attend Louisiana State University for business management.

She said she is leaning towards corporate event planning as a career, but she is also interested in sports medicine psychology.

Although it was tough at times, Richardson said the move to Owatonna was beneficial when preparing her for the next step.

“I am know confident in making new friends and being placed in uncomfortable situations like not knowing anyone in a group,” she said. “If I stayed in Massachusetts, I still think I would have gone far [for college]. I actually wasn't drawn to many of the schools back out east, so I was always looking down south and to the Midwest.

“Ever since I was a freshman, I have wanted to go far and experience life on my own,” Richardson continued. “LSU also had everything I wanted. I looked for a school that had a campus feel but was still near a city and had a lot of school pride. Plus they had a club lacrosse team which I am thinking of pursuing.”

One thing Richardson said she will never forgot about her time at OHS was the school pride of not only the students, but the entire community.

“I loved the school pride here, especially at football games,” she said. “We didn't have homecoming in my old town so the parade and dance was a very cool experience.”

Stauffer said she gave the speech that she herself needed to hear.

“Honestly, I’ve been really nervous moving forward,” she said. “I feel like the message that I’m delivering is the message that I myself needed to hear. I needed someone to reassure me that this wasn’t just the end of an era, but the beginning of the rest of my life.

“If I needed that message, I figured that someone else did too, and I wanted to share it.”

Stauffer has attended schools inside Owatonna School District her formal educational life. She has already earned an associate’s degree from Riverland Community College while participating in OHS’s Post Secondary Enrollment Options program where she was enrolled concurrently at OHS and Riverland.

One wonders where she found the time, after all, she was involved in orchestra, choir, theater, carolers, National Honor Society, dinner ensemble, pep band and was captain of the speech team.

She plans to attend Bethel University and major in social work in hopes of becoming a child forensic interviewer.

“OHS has taught me so, so much throughout the years,” Stauffer said. “In addition to providing me with a great education, it has also given me so many opportunities to grow academically, musically and emotionally. I’d have to say the main thing that OHS taught me is that there is no wrong way to go about your education. Whether you take all AP classes or not a single one, whether it takes you four years to get a degree or 15, any step forward is a step in the right direction.”

OHS selects commencement speakers a little differently than other area schools.

The valedictorians and salutatorian receive the honors at New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, but like many other Minnesotan high schools, Owatonna no longer acknowledges those distinctions.

Blooming Prairie followed Owatonna’s lead this past year to focus on a larger number of students instead of a select few, but the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked students in the class are still offered the opportunity to speak at graduation.

OHS holds a competition where anyone is allowed to compete. Students create a speech and present to the board, which uses a rubric to pick the top two.

Stauffer said she wasn’t sure exactly how many speakers applied this year, but she thinks it was around 12.

OHS Principal Mark Randall, Activities Director Marc Achterkirch and Board of Educational members Nikki Gieski and Eric Schuster also spoke briefly during the commencement ceremony.

The ceremony closed with the Owatonna School Hymn performed by the OHS orchestra and arranged by Chris Harris.


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