“MG21 is a special place for students to laugh, learn and grow.”

Those words by Denise Peterson, president of the MG21 governance board, sum up the school as well as unique personalities and unique talents that make up the class of 2019.

Thirteen seniors at the Monona Grove Liberal Arts Charter School for the 21st Century (MG21) completed their last assignment May 30 when they addressed the audience at the graduation ceremony and received their diplomas.

Each told of how MG21 changed their lives.

“My proclivity for guilty pleasures led to every area of my life. I turned to drugs and alcohol,” Ethan Lemay said. “I was able to manage my life for a short time, but I quickly fell off into the deep end. I let myself suffer for several years.”

It’s true that pain is the touchstone of spiritual growth, he said.

“After barely completing my junior year .. I came to the realization that my way wasn’t working, and I had had enough,” Lemay said.

Last summer, his mother visited him from her home in Puerto Rico.

“She came home to find me emaciated … and unable to stop using drugs,” he said.

First at a rehabilitation center and then a home for adolescent males, Lemay worked with MG21 to complete his graduation requirements.

“I just left two weeks ago,” he said. “At this time, I have been clean … for almost 11 months.”

He hopes to study biochemistry in college.

Teacher Ian Lowe told the story of seniors who found a lost dog and returned it to its owner on their trek along the Ice Age Trail.

“This is a group whose actions are guided by their values,” Lowe said. “They know what’s important to them and will act accordingly. They didn’t need or want any reward or accolades for saving Charlie. They did what was right, and then they moved forward.”

Student Cody Langer said his freshman and sophomore years were tough on him, but that turned around when he started at MG21.

“I didn’t know what I wanted, and I didn’t care,” he said. “Since MG21 has come into my life, it’s given me some direction.”

Classmate Ella Walker agreed.

“MG21 gave me the high school career I was hoping for but didn’t know existed previously,” she said.

Kiersten Monson said that before MG21, she didn’t think she would ever enjoy school – and she didn’t care.

“Now, I actually give a damn about my education, and I busted my butt to be standing here with everyone today. Coming to this school has really changed my perspective and who I am as a person in general,” she said. “The old me is finally gone, and I can be happy about that now. Not everything was smooth sailing, but I was able to overcome my struggles here way easier than I would have at my old high school. I felt supported, and I came to terms with my failures rather than being ashamed of them.”

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