Meet the Class of 2016: ‘I’m going to miss this’

June 5, 2016
Argus Leader

Riley Kiesow

Many people told Riley Kiesow he wouldn’t graduate by 2016.

Kiesow, 18, failed his first two years of high school. He struggled to complete homework and wasn’t engaged in learning, but that all changed when he transferred to New Technology High School.

“New Tech challenged me to make connections and think critically,” Kiesow said.

On Sunday, he delivered a commencement address to his fellow New Tech graduates. He shared his experience with project-based learning and offered best wishes to his classmates.

Kiesow will attend Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown this fall and pursue a degree in welding.

“A lot of people didn’t think I’d make it,” Kiesow said. “It’s kind of cool that I can prove people wrong like that.”

Dalton Roach

Dalton Roach is one of the first people in his family to earn a high school diploma.

The last four years taught the 18-year-old Lincoln High School student to not only do what was asked of him, but also to go above and beyond. Those years of hard work led Roach to an important lesson:

“No matter how hard it seems, you’ve just got to bite the bullet and keep going,” he said.

The hard work isn’t over for Roach. He has enlisted in the United States Air Force, and is waiting to hear where he will go next.

Maria Gonzalez

In an arena full of boisterous graduates, Maria Gonzalez showed her excitement not through her words, but through her smile.

The 18-year-old deaf student joked with two sign-language interpreters before the Roosevelt High School graduation Sunday afternoon. She beamed as she reflected on the last four years.

“Graduation is the point to have a successful life,” Gonzalez said. “It’s the next step.”

And it wasn’t an easy step.

Gonzalez worked hard to earn her diploma, and she said the biggest challenge was setting goals and sticking to them.

She plans to travel this summer before taking classes at the Sioux Falls School District Community Campus.

Alison Long

From her pink hair and lip ring to her passion for photography, Alison Long is an artist.

The 18-year-old Roosevelt High School graduate transferred after spending the first part of her freshman year at Lake Preston. From there, time sped by.

“It goes a lot faster than you’d think,” Long said of her time in high school.

It was challenging to move from a class of 16 at Lake Preston to a class of more than 500, but Long found her niche in art and stuck with it, taking a number of advanced art classes. She refined her abilities with a concentration on portraits, an area where she’d previously struggled.

“(Graduation) means I can move on to bigger and better things,” Long said.

She plans to attend community college in Colorado and pursue a career in photography.

Keanu Gutierrez and Justin Glenn

Keanu Gutierrez wants to study medicine, but not quite yet.

Gutierrez plans to take time off from school to work and save money for a trip to Japan before enrolling as a student at the University of Sioux Falls.

“I’m just a regular college student,” his friend Justin Glenn said with a chuckle, noting his decision to attend SDSU in the fall.

Both graduates view Sunday’s graduation ceremony as a milestone accomplishment.

“Everything for the last four years is finally paying off,” Glenn said.

From avoiding “senior-itis” and the temptation to skip class, to passing AP U.S. History, the two friends said the trick to earning a diploma was simply putting in the work.

“Just make sure you don’t slack off,” Gutierrez said.

Savannah Poe

Ten students in the Washington High School graduating class had a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

Savannah Poe is one of them.

Poe, 18, was also involved in choir, show choir and quiz bowl among other activities at Washington.

“I’m ready to be done,” Poe said with a smile.

Her dedication to academics will continue this fall at South Dakota State University where she plans to study mathematics, but she won’t soon forget her time as a Warrior.

Poe recalled the 2015 homecoming football game at Washington. It was pouring, but that didn’t keep the students from cheering on their football team. The stands were packed with cheering students.

“It shows you our Warrior pride.”

Carly Rysdon and Will Shea

Carly Rysdon knows the first, last and (sometimes) middle names of every single person she graduated alongside on Sunday.

“I honestly really love these people,” Rysdon said.

Whether they’re friends or not, Rysdon said she has a positive memory of everyone at New Technology High School, which she’ll take with her as she moves to North Carolina for a four-year culinary school.

“Overall, I’m going to miss this,” she said.

Many of Rysdon’s memories were with classmate Will Shea, 17.

For Shea, graduation is more of a beginning than an end. He’s excited to continue his education at Southeast Technical Institute, but less excited for more responsibilities.

“I don’t want to adult,” Shea said.

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