This year’s graduation scene for Sauk Centre Public Schools could not have been more different than 2020. 

On May 28, hundreds of people crowded into the auditorium to congratulate the 89 graduating students, their achievement proving they could navigate whatever uncertainties life threw at them.

After the senior choir sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” SCPS superintendent Pat Westby gave his introductory remarks and welcomed students, family and staff to the event.

“Seniors, my last piece of advice to you is don’t ever try to fill someone else’s shoes; bring your own pair,” Westby said. “2021 graduating seniors, on behalf of the Sauk Centre schools faculty, school board and administration, congratulations and good luck. We wish you all the very best.”

Kali Uphus gave the first class representative speech, remembering the class’s persistence in a year of difficulties.

“After this ceremony, we will go into the world with our diplomas and our whole lives ahead of us,” Uphus said. “All of a sudden, we will be experiencing our firsts instead of our lasts: first year of college, first day on the job, first time calling your mom because you’re not quite sure how to run a washing machine. Whether it’s going to a trade school, getting a formal degree or simply being taken wherever the wind blows you, all of us have been given the opportunity to succeed thanks to this school.”

After Uphus’ address, the senior choir returned to the stage to sing “The Nights” by Avicii.

SCPS science teacher Mike Ellens began his address by admitting he was not exactly the first choice in the senior poll for the faculty speech.

“When I was asked (to speak), my first thought was, ‘Wow, this year’s graduating class asked me,’” Ellens said. “I was then brought down a notch when I was told Charlie Warring was your first pick, and he turned it down. In my mind, though, I thought, ‘OK, I can handle No. 2 behind Charlie.’ Then, I was brought down another notch when I was told Scott Pearson was the No. 2 pick. At this point, I was a little deflated, but I feel honored that at least one person voted for me.”

Ellens went on to recount what the class of 2021 had to overcome, and he offered them some advice: Find what you want and have a passion for it; go for being happy, not rich; treat others as you want to be treated; be good and honest; protect the planet; and stay close to your loved ones.

“This group of graduates has had to overcome many obstacles and has shown to have good persistence, flexibility and hard work,” Ellens said. “They are ready to go out and face the challenges that may come their way.”

Ellens also gave a special thank you to students who were entering the military and law enforcement fields after graduation.

The second student speaker, Sara Kampsen, focused on how the previous year’s struggles have strengthened the class for the future.

“Our class has dealt with more struggles, hardships and disappointments than any other class ever should, but we did it,” Kampsen said. “We got through it, and it made us strong. We have reached the end like we always hoped. We are here in our caps and gowns, graduating like we knew we could.”

Secondary principal Sheila Flatau introduced the graduating seniors as secondary assistant principal Lucas Kosters and SCPS board chairman Brad Kirckof presented the students with their diplomas.