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Graduation: Looking ahead thanks to the past

Cloquet High School graduates celebrate following Friday night's Commencement Ceremony at Northwoods Credit Union Arena. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal1 / 2
Marie Osuna2 / 2

Countless hours of studying. Thousands of conversations with my friends and teachers. A hundred papers, a thousand tests, a million pens and pencils. All of this boils down to one moment: graduation day.

The morning of the day seemed unreal. I woke up, knowing that I would be walking across the stage that night but also still worried about the anatomy final I had yet to take that day. My morning was filled with half excitement (I am graduating tonight!) and half stress (I could still fail anatomy!).

Despite my worry, I came out of that final lab practical feeling good about how I did. I then went to my final class of the day, English, and felt the wave of emotions come on. This was it. My last class as a Cloquet Senior High student. Everything I've worked so hard for over the last four years ends tonight, and a new chapter of my life is about to begin.

During that last class, Mr. Naslund delivered a farewell message to his students that touched everyone. As I looked around the room, I saw tears in my peers' eyes, but also smiles on their faces. Of course we were happy to be graduating, but it's also hard to say goodbye to teachers who have invested so much into our education.

For me, having English as my last class was especially bittersweet because it was the class that made me into who I am today. Every teacher in Cloquet's English department contributed something that helped encourage me to pursue writing as a career. Mrs. Streblow, who praised my papers during freshman year. Mr. Richardson, who introduced me to new books to read. Mr. Krafthefer, who helped me lead the school newspaper. Mrs. Montgomery, who welcomed me into the book club. Mrs. Grossman, who edited my papers ruthlessly because she knew I still had room to grow. And finally, Mr. Naslund, who left me with the final message of "never stop writing." These people watched me grow up over the last four years, and I hope I will go out and make them proud.

The afternoon flew by in a blink of an eye. I had dinner with my parents and brothers, I took pictures with my friends and family, and I proudly donned my purple cap and gown. When "Pomp and Circumstance" began to play, I took one final deep breath and walked forward, feeling blessed for the time I spent as a Cloquet Lumberjack.

I'd like to tell you that I was reminiscing about all my favorite memories while I was walking across the stage, but I was not. My thoughts were more along the lines of: grab diploma with left hand, shake superintendent's hand with your right, don't forget to switch your tassel to the other side, and DO NOT TRIP. There are some tasks in life that require focus, and receiving your diploma is one of them.

But when Mr. Peterson announced the Class of 2017, and I threw my cap into the air, I didn't toss away the memories. I will still remember my teachers, my friends, the homecoming football games and the prom nights. I will always carry the lessons I learned during lectures and late-night cram sessions. And I know that even when I am worlds away, Cloquet will always be home, and I am proud to be an alumna.