PALMYRA — For the Palmyra-Eagle High School Class of 2019, its motto was simple — and a reminder to step into the next phase of life with courage.
“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.”
On Sunday, 74 students experienced the end of their time at the high school — and most likely the school experienced its second-to-last graduating class. A failed referendum in the spring of this year means the school district could very well dissolve after the 2019-20 school year.
“No matter what happens to this district, I will always bleed purple,” said Rachel Mason as part of a co-valedictory speech.
She and Mikayla Peardon shared their speech, taking the time to highlight some of the many moments that passed by too quickly.
“While sitting in uncomfortable desks, staring at the clock and watching the hand tick second by second, counting down until 3 p.m., time was doing everything but going by quickly,” Peardon said. “Although each day may have felt like an eternity, we really did just go through four years in a split-second.”
The graduation featured six valedictorians — Blair Webber, Mason, Haley Hatzinger, Adam Muth, Brianna Nelson and Peardon — and Owen Butenhoff as class salutatorian.
The guest speaker was 2003 Palmyra-Eagle High School graduate Justin Beaver, a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate, member of the 2007 UW-Whitewater national championship football team and the Division III national player of the year in 2007.
Palmyra-Eagle High School associate principal Nicholas Jones introduced Beaver to the audience, saying his childhood “instilled grit, developed persistence and formed character.”
Beaver lost his father when he was a junior in high school, and spoke to students about triumph over tragedy after being raised mostly by his grandparents and returning to them after his father’s death. Beaver earned nine varsity letters at Palmyra-Eagle, as well as being an honor student.
But while Beaver could speak to the post-high school experience, the students spent time talking about what they’d seen and done — and also how they’d gotten to their graduation.
“We’re finally here, huh?” Muth said. “To us kids, this has been forever in coming.”
But all of the student speakers took the time to talk about high school experiences, which includedhomecoming, prom, sporting events, friendships and school. Mason counted the variety of events, including “meltdowns while studying for a test late at night,” and added that senior year was full of “firsts and lasts.”
Webber and Hatzinger shared the podium, and started by talking about best friends they made in elementary school.
“These friendships are the most special thing in most people’s lives and the bonds shared during this time will never be forgotten,” Webber said.
Hatzinger added that, coming from Eagle, she learned that the two communities worked together.
“There is no label of ‘Palmyra kid’ or ‘Eagle kid,’” she said. “We are all one big happy family accomplishing great things together.”
Webber added that the friends also learned together, both through school and sports. She said that she was “mesmerized” by visiting seniors who stopped in during her elementary school years.
“Throughout this journey, we have gained friends, lost friends and met people who will always inspire us,” Webber said. “Every single person in this graduating class has touched one another in some way, and I think that is what truly matters.”