A thunderous end

For Alix Williamson, walking down the aisle to receive a diploma Sunday afternoon with her Fort Dodge High School classmates might seem a bit like deja vu.

That’s because it is.

Williamson got a diploma two weeks ago from Iowa Central Community College where she holds an associate of arts degree.

“It’s very interesting,” she said while looking around at her classmates, “It’s different.”

Williamson has kept busy. She had full-time student status at Iowa Central for three years, a full class load at the high school, went out for cheerleading and worked two part-time jobs. She said she graduated with a 3.69 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society.

“Pushing myself to sit through the last two weeks was difficult,” she said.

Now that summer is here, she might even find some time to sleep.

As the ceremony got under way Sunday inside the gym, thunder could be heard rumbling outside as the sky darkened and the rain fell.

Superintendent Doug Van Zyl welcomed the dry students and guests by thanking the parents for their hard work and congratulating the class on collectively earning about $1.5 million in scholarships and grants.

Valedictorian Baylie Wingerson reminded her classmates that graduation marks a milestone and a new beginning for them.

She also spoke about the lessons learned that were not academic.

“This is where we learned how to deal with social situations,” she said.

She also warned them that in the real world of jobs, college and other pursuits, it’s not about them.

Salutatorian Janessa Laupp looked back over her time with the class and reminded them that they all came through it as a group.

“It’s one common good for success,” she said.

As the 232 seniors listed in the program turned their tassels and tossed their caps, FDSH principal David Keane declared them graduates for the first time.

“You now have all of the responsibilities,” said Keane as graduates and their families cheered.

Before leaving the gymnasium, Keegan Gormally read the class poem, and Cal Brandt shared a few last words of advice with his classmates.

“Each one of us has dreams, a focused path,” said Gormally.

Brandt described graduation day as the last chapter in the book of high school and encouraged his classmates to not sweat the simple things.

“Well, this is it,” he said. “The last chapter in the book of high school.”

Brandt said he spent a lot of time thinking about preparing his speech when he realized that like many things, there was no need to worry about it.

“I just want to give a quick reflection of what I have learned the past four years,” he said. “Don’t let the little things faze you or ruin your day. Don’t let the simple things make you mad.”

He also managed to incorporate his love for superheroes into the speech.

“You wouldn’t see Captain America fret over anything small,” said Brandt. “When big things happen, don’t worry. For example, right now is a good reminder. It would have been good to have graduation at the stadium. But instead, we are here in the gym where we aren’t getting drenched. Enjoy the little things in life.You’ve heard it before but I will say it again, ‘Congratulations class of 2013.’ I leave you with one last word of advice: Live long and prosper.”

For Nathan Moore, finally making it to graduation day was a bit of a relief.

“I’m relieved,” he said. “I am definitely excited for the future, but I will miss all of my friends and the teachers who inspired me to do good things.”

Ashley McBride said it didn’t feel like the day should have already come.

“It’s kind of crazy,” she said. “Sort of unbelievable, it doesn’t feel like I have graduated yet, it still just feels like another day.”

Neely Scharf decided to add a personal touch to the traditional FDSH attire of a red cap and gown by decorating the top of her cap in rhinestones and an “N.”

“It’s just me,” she said. “I love glitter and sparkles. I’m always wearing glitter.”

Scharf will be attending the University of Northern Iowa in the fall, but she said she will miss high school.

“It’s been weird the past few days not going to school after 13 years,” she said. “I’ll miss my choir, choir has been my life.”