Uplifting messages at graduation ceremony

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On a picture perfect day speakers celebrated the past and present and anticipated the future at the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District graduation ceremony on Sunday, June 2 at Alliant Energy Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison.

A crowd of more than 3,000 watched more than 570 seniors from Middleton High School, Clark Street Community School and 21st Century eSchool participate in the ceremony.

Please visit the District's Facebook page or our Google Photos site to see more photos from the ceremony.

Here is the video from the graduation ceremony, along with a slide show that was displayed before the event began:

Four students -- class co-president Grace Madigan, vice president Clara Nemr and classmates David Whittingham and Blake Zillner -- gave speeches.

Senior vocalists Alexis Barrett, Hadley Braaten, Jack Briggs, Anders Burck, Lucy Croasdale, Gabby Cunningham, Kristen DeLeo, Sarah DiMiceli, Searra Funch, Isabel Garlough-Shah, Sarah Gralnek, Thomas Griffith, Kyia Gundlach, Mykala Jaeschke, Erica Jesse, Olivia Larson, Maria Laurent, Erin Lemke, Cassidy Long, Phoebe Miller, Eric Molina, Marisol Morrissey, Yohana Ohlrogge, Amalia Perry, Will Pritchard, Kyra Schlicht, Courtney Spahn and Jack Thompson  sang "The Star-Spangled Banner.''

A double brass ensemble that included Kyra Ginsberg, Nik Steele, Alex Ashley, Evan Nelson, Henry Gruett, Calli Whitehead, Tyler Huff, Jack Ohly and Mike Ver Voort performed for 30 minutes before the ceremony and also led the "Pomp and Circumstance " processional along with the fanfare and recessional.

The faculty commencement was given by MHS band teacher Doug Brown. He started by asking the graduates to look around and note the family and friends at the ceremony and to take in the weight of the moment. He also thanked them for helping the adults grow and learn.

"You have led us by the hand into the future,'' he said. "Go back and represent us better than we have ourselves.''

He encouraged the graduates to demand change and see it through. He drew laughs when he noted he had "watched this class grow up and seen many things they wish I could forget.''

Brown also reminded them that failure can be a good thing. He noted when young children learn to ride a bike they don't left self-doubt limit them.

"Failure is the mark of successful people,'' he said. "We learn from it. ... You stand at the precipice of new-found potential freedom. I challenge you to think like a child again.

"We love you. We are proud of you. You will always have a home here.''

Nemr noted her classmates were ready to leave high school and make their mark on the world. But she also encouraged them to cherish their final moments together.

"We have been offered so much here,'' she said. "Look forward to what lies ahead. But your roots were developed here. You are ready to tackle the world beyond the walls at MHS.''

Whittingham reflected on the past and present. He also noted most graduates probably have mixed feelings and have dealt with both happy and sad times over the past four years.

"We have all faced heartache over the past few years,'' said Whittingham, who noted the tough times have helped graduates develop resiliency. "But let us appreciate how far we have come. Maybe we emerged wiser and more prepared.''

He also reflected on the positive moments beyond academic and athletic success. He drew chuckles when he reflected on "winning" a parkin spot close to school in time to make class before the morning bell or attempts at humor during the morning announcements.

"There is a common theme over the past four years for all of us,'' Whittingham said. "There is to be found a reason to do good by others. Let us vow not to forget what happened here. Harness all of the joy and pain to bring the beauty of lives to others.''

Zillner brought a banana onto the stage and compared life to the fruit as he anticipated the future. He noted the Class of 2019 was green when it arrived in high school, just like a banana starts that was before ripening. He noted bananas often bruise and that this year's class has dealth with its share of misfortune as well.

He encouraged his classmates to tackle wordld issues such as global warming, inequality, hunger and overpopulation.

"We are the future but we have to work together to build a better tomorrow,'' Zillner said. "Let's show the world we can work hard and do the impossible.''

Madigan reflected back to an eighth-grade science class and entering high school thinking she could succeed on her own. However, her opinion has changed over time.

"When I joined the swim team, they weren't my competitors but my family,'' she said. "The marching band welcomed me with open arms as a senior. I also found support from classmates. ... The people I have met have helped me become the person I am today.''

MHS principal Steve Plank, Clark Street Community School and 21st Century eSchool principal Jill Gurtner, and Superintendent George Mavroulis also spoke at the ceremony. Board members Bob Hesselbein, Sean Hyland, Minza Karim and Todd Smith handed out diplomas to the graduates.