Graduation 2015

Categories: Around the Diocese

Each spring we celebrate the graduations of high school students. To give our readers a profile of this year’s graduating class, The Visitor asked the two Catholic high schools and a sampling of parishes across the diocese to nominate one of their seniors for this feature. In the following pages, you’ll find the students’ responses about their high school experiences and hopes for the future.

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Kyle Becker


Kyle Becker
Pierz Healy High School, Pierz
St. John of Nepomuk Parish, Lastrup

Q: Name one thing you’re proud of accomplishing in high school.
The biggest accomplishment in high school for me was receiving the Minnesota ExCEL award. This award is given to very few high school juniors in recognition of community involvement, education and leadership. Receiving this award was a great honor that I could not have earned without the support of my family and the community.

Q: What’s the best advice you received from a teacher?
Follow your heart. A number of teachers have told me this over the years and it has always remained true. Whenever I was faced with a tough decision, they helped me discover in my own heart what I thought would be best.

Q:What’s the greatest lesson you learned in high school?
Be true to yourself. You may not always want to do exactly what your friends want to do or what your peer group deems “cool.” Do what holds value for you and your time will be fulfilling.

Q: In what ways did you demonstrate Gospel values in your school life and activities?
Because I was created in the image of God, I tried my best to demonstrate the Gospel values in everything I did. The Gospel values teach us how we should treat those close to us, through honesty, compassion and forgiveness. When working in group environments I held all of these close to my heart, as I hope those working with me held in their hearts toward me. Furthermore, I tried to be involved in the community to be a servant of God and to love all of my brothers and sisters here on earth, in preparation for eternal salvation through God.

Q: How will you carry your faith forward in the future?
I look forward to expanding my faith in the coming years by surrounding myself and developing relationships with those who share a compassion for the Lord.

Q: What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think?
The book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell examines cases of people and why they achieve excellence, or why they are outliers to the normal curve of talent. This book showed, mathematically, that talents are not something people are born with, but rather achieved through practice and opportunities.

Q: If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be and what would you ask him or her?
I would like to speak with Nikola Tesla about the way he revolutionized society and modern technology. I believe he would have been a very interesting man, speaking eight languages and being a revolutionary in early 20th-century science.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?
“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith!” from 2 Timothy 4:7 (New English Translation)

Q: What are your post high school plans?
I will be attending St. John’s University in Collegeville to study computer science and to continue running both cross country and track.

 

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Paige Danielson


Paige Danielson

Cathedral High School, St. Cloud
St. Michael Parish, St. Cloud

Q: Name one thing you’re proud of accomplishing in high school.
Winning a state title in cross country with my team and my two sisters.

Q: What’s the best advice you received from a teacher?
Invest in what you learn instead of just memorizing it for the moment, it makes learning more enjoyable and you remember and understand the material better.

Q: What’s the greatest lesson you learned in high school?
How rewarding it is to be involved in many activities and not being afraid to try new things.

Q: In what ways did you demonstrate Gospel values in your school life and activities?
I have been involved in volunteering at Vacation Bible School at my parish and try to encourage everyone to do their best in sports and school activities.

Q: How will you carry your faith forward in the future?
I plan to continue to be involved in the church and in volunteering and helping others.

Q: What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think?
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” It showed how there is a story behind everything that isn’t often exposed. It made me think about what we often take for granted and how a simple concept is actually very complex and fascinating.

Q: If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be and what would you ask him or her?
I would love to talk to Mother Teresa. There would be so much to ask her, but I would just love to hear who she looks up to and sees as a role model.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?
“No matter how bad the situation might be, when you wake up in the morning the sun will still be shining.” — Coach Kelly Haws

Q: What are your post high school plans?
Next year, I am planning to attend Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., to major in electrical engineering.

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Carmen Ebel


Carmen Ebel

Cathedral High School, St. Cloud
St. Joseph Parish, St. Joseph

Q: Name one thing you’re proud of accomplishing in high school.
I’m proud of surviving AP physics class. I was worried when I signed up that it would be a struggle the entire year, but it’s ended up being one of my favorite classes. It takes a lot of work and a lot of concentration, but the hard work has paid off and been well worth it.

Q: What’s the best advice you received from a teacher?
The best advice I received from a teacher was to think critically. My biology teacher, Mr. Fred Rupp, taught me to spend time looking at ways to think through information and be able to explain things rather than memorizing facts.

Q: What’s the greatest lesson you learned in high school?
The greatest lesson that I learned in high school is to let go of the little things and focus on what’s really important. There are so many distractions in today’s busy world that it’s easy to get caught up in things that don’t matter in the long run. These distractions can often be harmless things, but it’s very important to reflect on how you are choosing to spend your time and what that says about your priorities. It’s also important to look at things that are bothering or stressing you out and see which ones are even worth the time to worry about.

Q: In what ways did you demonstrate Gospel values in your school life and activities?
I demonstrated the Gospel values in my school life and activities in many ways. With all the things going in my life I’m often stressed out and need to take a moment to realize that it’s all in God’s hands and that his plan for the future will be the right one. All I need to do is trust in him and things will work out. Another way that I demonstrate Gospel values is through a commitment to service. I have participated in many different service-based organizations that have allowed me to reach out to people in both the school and St. Cloud community. I strive to be an honest, compassionate and a fair student, friend and leader.

Q: How will you carry your faith forward in the future?
First and foremost, I hope to become involved in a local or campus church and to be able to not only attend Mass but be a part of the service. I would also like to get involved in a variety of service opportunities and focus on being Christ’s hands and feet to the world.

Q: What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think?
One of the books that I’ve read that most changed the way I thought was “Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka. Though brief, the book presents many questions about how we perceive ourselves and what we value in life. It also caused me to think a little harder on the relationship I have with my family and how I handle difficulties in my life. After reading “Metamorphosis” I take a little more time to consider the oddities in life and also the blunt realities of it.

Q: If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be and what would you ask him or her?
I would love to have a conversation with Albert Einstein, because he seems like a very quirky and unique individual, and I very much admire his contributions to science. I’d ask what led him to his many discoveries, but I’d also be curious to know how he felt about the use of the atomic bomb he helped create.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is from Matthew 10:8 — “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” It serves as an important reminder that I have been very blessed, and I am called to serve others with the gifts I have been given.

Q: What are your post high school plans?
I am going to attend the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where I will most likely major in biochemistry or microbiology. Following this, I am considering going to medical school to be a pediatrician.

 

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Victor Schleppenbach


Victor Schleppenbach

Rocori High School, Cold Spring
St. James Parish, Jacobs Prairie

Q: Name one thing you’re proud of accomplishing in high school.
Being elected one of Rocori’s football captains and going to state this year!

Q: What’s the best advice you received from a teacher?
When you put forth the effort, the possibilities in life are limitless.

Q: What’s the greatest lesson you learned in high school?
That in order to lead, you must first learn how to follow.

Q: In what ways did you demonstrate Gospel values in your school life and activities?
I tried to demonstrate Gospel values by trying to do the right thing at times when peer pressure was trying to sway me otherwise — whether it be in speech, actions or choices in and out of school.

Q: How will you carry your faith forward in the future?
By being an example for others and following God’s lead.

Q: What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think?
I have read the “Hunger Games” and the Divergent Trilogy series. Both made me think of how corrupt government can destroy the morals and freedom of a nation and/or society.

Q: If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be and what would you ask him or her?
I would like to speak to George Washington. I would ask him how he found the courage and strength to lead, and help develop a new country.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?
Psalm 144:1-2. “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war; My safeguard and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, My shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.”

Q: What are your post high school plans?
I would like to join the Air Force.

 

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Jessica Hanley


Jessica Hanley

Foley High School, Foley
SS. Peter and Paul Parish, Gilman

Q: Name one thing you’re proud of accomplishing in high school.
Throughout my high school career, I have been involved with band, FFA, National Honor Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters, volleyball and volunteering. The activity I was most involved with was FFA — I was treasurer of my school’s chapter for two years, received my state degree and placed well in horse evaluation competitions for four years. I am most proud of getting into the National FFA Band in the fall of 2014. Though I played in the 2014 Minnesota State Band, I was not sure of being accepted into the National FFA Band, held in Louisville, Ky. I auditioned and, about a month later, was accepted. The feeling was amazing — I would board a plane for the first time and fly to Kentucky to meet people from across the country.

Q: What’s the best advice you received from a teacher?
The best advice I received throughout school came from numerous teachers. It was “Don’t stress about it because everything will work out.” I didn’t believe them at the time, but I now see that they were absolutely right.

Q: What’s the greatest lesson you learned in high school?
The greatest lesson I learned was how to prioritize my activities so I would have enough time to study, work and have a social life. It wasn’t always easy, but it is a life skill that I needed.

Q: In what ways did you demonstrate Gospel values in your school life and activities?
No matter if I am going to work, school, activities or doing horse chores, I always find time to go to church or to say a prayer. I was never too busy to put God first because I knew exactly how much I needed him in my life. A large reason I enjoyed FFA so much was because before any banquet we would give thanks to God and to everything he has bestowed on us. God will forever be a part of my life because he gives me strength to get through difficult times. He is always there when I need him, and going to church only makes our relationship stronger. I have been attending church my whole life and serving during Mass for about six years.

Q: How will you carry your faith forward in the future?
Looking toward the future, I will be actively involved with my church and continue to keep God as the center of my life by praying to him and thanking him for all of my blessings.

Q: What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think?
The book that had the greatest impact on me was “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. I was infuriated by the way people were being treated, but then I felt moved once people started standing up for themselves. In a world so ready to push people around, it was inspiring to read about people taking a stand and defending what they thought was right.

Q: If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be and what would you ask him or her?
I would love to speak to the Virgin Mary to hear what she has gone through and felt firsthand. I would ask her what it was like when she was first approached by the Angel Gabriel and asked to be blessed with Jesus as her son. I would also ask what it was like to run away from her home just to keep her baby, who was not born yet, safe from King Herod. It would be an honor to be in Mary’s presence, and listening to her voice would be nothing short of incredible.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?
A quote that pertains to my life is by Francis of Assisi: “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.” I like this because it encourages me to not just talk about the actions I wish to make but to put forth effort until the goal is achieved, especially when it comes to advocating for peace. It also helps me stay humble with my accomplishments.

Q: What are your post high school plans?
This coming fall I plan to attend St. Cloud State University, majoring in biology. I hope to continue my skills in the FFA and band programs as well. I want to make a difference in the world around me, and I know this is possible through God’s never-ending guidance.

 

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Emily Klinkner


Emily Klinkner

Alexandria Area High School, Alexandria
St. Mary Parish, Alexandria

Q: Name one thing you’re proud of accomplishing in high school.
I am proud of accomplishing all of the college classes I was able to take during high school so I can go into college a semester ahead.

Q: What’s the best advice you received from a teacher?
To be yourself and stand up for what you believe in.

Q: What’s the greatest lesson you learned in high school?
Look at teachers like they are your best friend, treat them with respect and listen to what they have to say.

Q: In what ways did you demonstrate Gospel values in your school life and activities?
I demonstrate Gospel values by leading a 10th grade Cherish group at my church and I taught Sunday School to preschoolers. While I am in school I include others when they are left out and listen to whoever needs to talk. If they are struggling, a simple “I will pray for you” is always added at the end of the conversation.

Q: How will you carry your faith forward in the future?
By going to church and being a part of the Newman Center on the North Dakota State University campus.

Q: What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think?
“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller most changed the way I think. The story, about people accusing others of being witches who were later killed, reminded my of how we persecuted Jesus. That is still happening today with our words, killing people on the inside. We have the power to change that and make it better.

Q: If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be and what would you ask him or her?
I would love to have a conversation with Jesus and ask him what his favorite miracle was.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde

Q: What are your post high school plans?
My plans after high school are to go to North Dakota State University for elementary education.

 

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Alicia Quamme


Alicia Quamme

Kennedy Secondary School, Fergus Falls
Our Lady of Victory Parish, Fergus Falls

Q: Name one thing you’re proud of accomplishing in high school.
Through high school, I’ve worked at the Fergus Falls Gymnastics Academy and am proud of the work I’ve done for the program as the assistant office manager.

Q: What’s the greatest lesson you learned in high school?
I’ve struggled with anxiety throughout high school, but I’ve learned to accept my weakness. I’ve learned to look at it as an opportunity for growth because in my weakness, God is made stronger. Learning to give up control to him, accepting that I have no power without him, has been a very important lesson for me.

Q: How will you carry your faith forward in the future?
Even as I go off to college and begin a new chapter of my life, my personal relationship with my Father will continue to deepen and strengthen.

Q: In what ways did you demonstrate Gospel values in your school life and activities?
During my summers, I volunteered at Trout Lake Camp. As a co-counselor, I had the wonderful opportunity to interact with, and be an example to, groups of young teenage girls. I shared my testimony and led devotionals. Throughout high school, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by friends who have great love for God. We are intentional about praying for each other and keeping each other mindful of God in our daily lives.

Q: If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be and what would you ask him or her?
Mother Teresa. I might ask her, “What can I do today?” Having the opportunity to learn from Mother Teresa on how to make a difference today, right now, in the present, would be immeasurably meaningful. I would love to hear Mother Teresa speak her beliefs about humbleness and how to attain it, beginning today.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?
“Wherever you are, be all there.” — Jim Elliot

Q: What are your post high school plans?
I will be attending the University of North Dakota to pursue a career path in chemical engineering.

 

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Gabrielle Kolb


Gabrielle Kolb

St. John’s Preparatory School, Collegeville
St. Paul Parish, St. Cloud

Q: Name one thing you’re proud of accomplishing in high school.
I am proud to be the founder and president of a chapter of She’s the First at St. John’s Prep. She’s the First is a nonprofit organization that supports girls’ education in the developing world. To date, She’s the First at St. John’s Prep has raised over $3,000 to send girls to school in developing countries.

Q: What’s the best advice you received from a teacher?
During my freshman year of high school I had Mr. Grandy as my geometry teacher. He would always tell my class to be mentally tough. Whenever we encountered a challenging problem he would say “M-T” for “mental toughness.” He helped me learn to not be defeated when I encounter an academic or social issue that challenges me.

Q: What’s the greatest lesson you learned in high school?
I have learned that an individual is never too young to start pursuing a passion and making a difference in their local and global communities.

Q: In what ways did you demonstrate Gospel values in your school life and activities?
At St. John’s Prep, about a third of the student population is international. I have tried to be hospitable and compassionate as I learn more about the cultures and lives of people all over the world. As the leader of many organizations and sports, including National Honor Society, soccer, yearbook and She’s the First, I have tried to encourage students to try new things and believe in themselves.

Q: How will you carry your faith forward in the future?
I will be attending a nondenominational university, and I am excited to share my faith experiences with people who have different spiritual backgrounds. I look forward to challenging my beliefs and helping others grow in their spirituality. Also, by attending a school in the Pacific northwest, I am excited to experience God’s amazing gifts in nature.

Q: What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think?
After reading “Native Son,” a novel about an African-American youth who finds himself on the run after murdering a young female, I have been able to view various race and socioeconomic issues in the United States differently. I have learned to better acknowledge my own privilege and work to ensure that all people are treated equally, justly and with compassion.

Q: If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be and what would you ask him or her?
I would like to have a conversation with Anne Frank. I would ask where she got the incredible strength to remain positive and kind throughout the Holocaust.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?
This is an excerpt from my favorite poem “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
“I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.”
What are your post high school plans?
I will attend the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., on a full merit scholarship. I plan to study international political economy, an interdisciplinary major with focuses in sociology, political science and economics.

 

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Philip Shefveland


Philip Shefveland

Sauk Rapids-Rice High School, Sauk Rapids
Sacred Heart Parish, Sauk Rapids

Q: Name one thing you’re proud of accomplishing in high school.
I began high school as a quiet kid who didn’t have the confidence to get involved in many activities. In finding drama and the fine arts, this all changed! I ended high school involved in three different bands, two choirs and was fortunate to be in 10 musicals and plays as a student director and actor. The acceptance I received in these gave me the confidence to be me.

Q: What’s the best advice you received from a teacher?
The best advice was to always know how to back up your words with actions, otherwise people will not respect your beliefs, values and integrity.

Q: What’s the greatest lesson you learned in high school?
When and if you discover your God-given talents, your purpose and path God has set for you will fall into place. Continue trying new things (and praying) until you find out what those talents are.

Q: In what ways did you demonstrate Gospel values in your school life and activities?
I’ve been a listening ear to those involved in the same activities as me. I’ve been able to work with those struggling and get them the resources they need. In our government class debates, I’ve stood up for human rights. Hopefully the confidence I have in my beliefs will help others to not be afraid to share their faith.

Q: How will you carry your faith forward in the future?
As I am going into youth ministry and liturgy, I hope to share my own love for God with the youth I will be leading.

Q: What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think?
“Native Son” vividly described the racism in America in the early 20th century. I have seen how far we’ve moved forward in that aspect, but also how far we have to go.

Q: If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be and what would you ask him or her?
I would ask St. Paul what he thinks can be done to engage the youth of America in this age.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?
“You know your desire. Don’t hold a glass over the flame, don’t let your heart grow cold.” — Mumford and Sons

Q: What are your post high school plans?
I plan on attending St. Cloud State University and living in the Marmion House, majoring in education, minoring in music. By taking Catholic university online classes and others at St. John’s University, my goal is to become certified as a youth minister and liturgist.

 

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Nicholas Shircliff


Nicholas Shircliff

Parkers Prairie High School, Parkers Prairie
St. William Parish, Parkers Prairie

Q: Name one thing you’re proud of accomplishing in high school.
Receiving a perfect score on my solo for choir contest and moving on to state competition.

Q: What’s the best advice you received from a teacher?
You can accomplish anything that you set your heart and mind to.

Q: What’s the greatest lesson you learned in high school?
That kindness and sincerity will get you far in life, to treat others with respect.

Q: In what ways did you demonstrate Gospel values in your school life and activities?
To always try to see the good in people, not to judge them and to forgive those who need it.

Q: How will you carry your faith forward in the future?
By attending church and setting a good example for others.

Q: What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think?
The book “The Confession” by John Grisham changed my way of thinking to not judge people before I get to know them.

Q: If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be and what would you ask him or her?
Abraham Lincoln. I would ask him “What helped you to have the courage to save the slaves?”

Q: What’s your favorite quote?
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” — George Bernard Shaw

Q: What are your post high school plans?
To attend North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D., and to study architectural design.