The McFarland High School class of 2019 celebrated the culmination of 13 years of education Sunday afternoon as they tossed their caps into the air in front of family, friends, school staff and community members.

Superintendent Andrew Briddell noted the seniors had dedicated countless hours to reach their milestone moments – academic and otherwise – as high school students. He said they had figured out how to work and work hard.

“You will spend the vast majority of your lives working, and you’ll be very good at it as you’ve already shown,” Briddell said, adding just as importantly as working hard though, was the idea of play. “Please give yourself permission to balance your work life – whether it be work as a postsecondary student, in the trades, in the military services – with a sense of play.”

The superintendent said keeping a work-life balance is important and encouraged the seniors to continue with the activities they have taken part in as high schoolers. While most adults don’t get the chance to make a living out of these enjoyable pursuits, the activities are a source of happiness and a lot of fun in addition to adding a sense of camaraderie.

Briddell said taking part in these pursuits often sustains people when work gets challenging, noting that work can be fun, too, and fulfilling with a sense of accomplishment and pride; even in the workplace there can be a sense of play, joy and fellowship.

He quoted baseball Hall of Fame player Willie Stargell, who in talking about his occupation said, “It’s supposed to be fun; the umpire says play ball not work ball.”

Briddell said each day, he tries to bring a sense of fun to his occupational ballpark each day.

The superintendent challenged the class of 2019 to stay in touch with the sense of play, fun and joy.

“Let it be a spark in your work wherever that takes you,” Briddell said.

Also addressing the students’ future was valedictorian Leah Russell who wanted to be practical and realistic, telling her classmates society tends to idealize the future but the reality of it is plans don’t always pan out, which leads to frustrations.

Russell noted while the world is filled with light, it is also cloaked with darkness and that’s not going to change; there will be struggles and hardships. However, the valedictorian did have some advice for her fellow graduates – that the future is a combination of actions and reactions.

“My advice is to not lose your hopes and dreams,” she said. “Be excited and active in planning your future.”

Of equal importance is how they react to the inevitable obstacles. Russell said while many people see an obstacle as a problem blocking their path, if looked at in a different perspective, it can actually be a benefit.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And sell it for an outrageous profit,” the valedictorian said, recalling how she was tasked with packing her older siblings school lunches. But Russell used this to her advantage by packing her lunch with the best fruit, chips and snacks. “Bet you guys didn’t know that, huh?”

In those cases when a situation cannot be manipulated into an advantage, she encouraged her peers to set aside their pride and ask for help.

Russell said the class of 2019 has already encountered hardships and become stronger because of it.

“The future is not going to be picture perfect, and that’s OK,” she said.

While the valedictorian provided a realistic look at the future, salutatorian Nora Briddell talked about the kindness she encountered as a new student arriving her freshman year. She said the seniors’ ability to create a sense of community with an overall kind and welcoming sense of community may be subtle and unmeasurable, it’s more significant than any academic achievement.

“Kindness breeds kindness, and I can personally attest to the impact your kindness has had on my character,” the salutatorian said.

McFarland High School principal Jeff Finstad provided the final remarks to the students, after being introduced by class President Erin Thiede who joked while Finstad began at the high school the same day as the seniors, he would be staying at the school longer than they would.

Finstad admitted he was probably just as nervous during his first day as the school’s principal as the class of 2019 was upon entering the school and noted the students had accomplished much in four years.

“Two words that come to mind for the class of 2019 – you are intense and you are driven. You are a group of very intense people,” the principal said, before providing examples of seniors who display these characteristics be it through working to change themselves or the world around them, or by providing entertainment

“You will make the world a better place,” Finstad said. “Be intense, have some drive and don’t be afraid to take time to enjoy life and laugh just a little bit.”

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