Graduation 2017

Katie Cannon
Morris Area High School, Morris – Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Morris

Name one thing you are proud of accomplishing in high school.
During my senior year in tennis, I was in the final round of sections and ended up losing to my opponent. Now this may not seem like my greatest accomplishment to you, but what happened next is what was amazing. I walked up to my opponent to shake hands, and she said 10 simple words, “You are the nicest tennis player I have ever played!” Shocked, I couldn’t come up with anything to say, then she was gone. I have encountered many athletes that are ecstatic, but in that moment my opponent was so humble. I couldn’t believe what she said. We exchanged some heartwarming letters. Though I did not make it to state that day I learned a more important lesson than a state trip could have taught me — to never hesitate to say nice things to other people because words can go a long way.

What is the best advice you’re received from a teacher?
Follow your dreams and set goals for yourself and strive to achieve them because the most important goals are the goals you set for yourself. Next, don’t conform to other people’s expectations for you if that is not what you believe in; as long as you are respectful and enjoy life, this is what is important.

If you could go back in time five years, what advice would you give yourself?
Always try your hardest and experience everything you can. Time flies by so fast, so live in the moment and don’t worry about what other people think of you. Just be yourself and do what you enjoy!

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?
Stereotyping troubles me. With terrorism occurring more commonly today, people are being targeted because of their skin color, gender, religion, etc. Many people fear them because they could be potentially dangerous. Without people stepping in to make a difference these people don’t live freely because they constantly live in fear or are treated as inferior because of an action someone else commits.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.
I have become very active in the community. During my junior year, I was voted onto the student council, so I have become very active in the school, volunteering for community meals, Relay for Life, Feed My Starving Children, Food Distribution and many other organizations. One of the most impactful was decorating the house of a 3-year-old boy with cancer. His family was not going to have time to decorate their house before Christmas, so after school many people gathered to decorate his home before he returned home from his chemotherapy treatment.

What is your favorite quote?
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible!’”  — Audrey Hepburn

What are your post high school plans?
I will attend the University of Jamestown for elementary education and coaching. I plan to run track while in college.


Ashley Herdering
Melrose Area Schools, Melrose – St. Rose of Lima Parish, St. Rosa

Name one thing you are proud of accomplishing in high school.
I am involved in the Melrose FFA chapter, and this year I had to work around lots of conflicts to get to state with the team. But in the end, I, along with my team, took third place at state.

What is the best advice you’ve received from a teacher?
“Find a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” (Mr. Chad Wehrman, Algebra 2 and 11th-grade math teacher)

If you could go back in time five years, what advice would you give yourself?
Live in the moment and don’t worry about the little things. You never know what God’s plans are for you.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?
The world is moving too fast and we need to slow down and think about what we do before we do it. The world would be better if people thought about what they were doing and the impact it would have on the future.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.  
I had a government class and it got really controversial and the class was very divided. I said a quote from the Bible and a few kids got up and moved to my side.

What is your favorite quote?
“Live today as it were the last and everything will fall into place.”

What are your post high school plans?
I plan to attend Bemidji State University and major in communications with an emphasis in environmental studies.


Kendrick Hernandez
Cathedral High School, St. Cloud – St. Joseph Parish, Waite Park

Name one thing you are proud of accomplishing in high school.
I am proud of finishing high school. I am the first out of the house and once again leading by example for my younger siblings. I will always be their big brother and will show them the ropes just like high school. I am proud of them as well.

What is the best advice you’ve received from a teacher?
The best advice from a teacher was when I was in third grade. Ms. Gustin will always be my favorite teacher. She was a sweet lady who was my math teacher back in Arizona. Every day in the morning when I arrived at school, I’d walk into her class and she’d say good morning to me. She always told me, “Respect goes a long way, Kendrick. Respect could one day be the difference.”

If you could go back in time five years, what advice would you give yourself?
I’d tell myself to read more books. Reading books now has helped me expand my vocabulary and also has given me the ability to comprehend better. If I had read more books in the last five years, I’d be able to read and write better.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?
I would like to give my parents a better life. My goal as of right now is to finish all my schooling, work — and then give my parents what they deserve for all the hard work they’ve invested in my life and in the lives of my brothers and sister.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.  
A time that I have demonstrated a Gospel value in my school life was during my sophomore year. My friend Danny and I were walking through downtown to grab a snack before practice and there was a man who had fallen in the road. We helped him up, walked him to a building nearby and put him inside.

What is your favorite quote?
“ I like to Cha Cha.” — D.R.A.M.

What are your post high school plans?
I will be attending St. John’s University next year and plan on studying something in the medical field. I am beyond excited to experience the next four years at SJU.


Spencer Hockert
Alexandria Area High School, Alexandria – St. Mary Parish, Alexandria

What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think and why?
“To Kill a Mockingbird.” I learned to treat everyone with respect no matter what their background is.

What advice would you give students entering their senior year?
Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone and try new things.

What do you appreciate most about your Catholic faith?
I find comfort in knowing that God is always looking out for me and has a plan for me.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?
World hunger. I did research about it in my economics class, and it is something that is easily curable in the world. Everyone should have access to basic life necessities, and it makes me sad that millions of kids every night are going to bed starving.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.
This has happened multiple times where I will tell someone to stop judging another person because we don’t know their story and their background. The last thing someone needs is to be belittled about something they can’t control.

What is your favorite quote?
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.” — Jeremiah 29:11

What are your post high school plans?
I will be attending the University of Minnesota -Twin Cities to major in economics.


Jasmine Johnson
Becker High School, Becker – Mary of the Visitation Parish, Becker and Big Lake

If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be and why?
It would be with Abraham Lincoln. He is my favorite president and I have always wanted to hear about historical events from his perspective.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned in high school?
The greatest lesson I have learned in high school is to be yourself, even if it feels awkward or ridiculous at the time. There will be those uncomfortable moments in life, but it’s best to laugh it off and make some memories from it rather than feel bad and try to change yourself.

What service projects have you been involved in? How have they made a difference in your life?
I have served my community in a variety of ways including helping with church service projects, assisting with my school’s National Honor Society, and volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club. My favorite way to serve has been through mission trips. These trips have impacted me immensely because they have allowed me to see the world from a different perspective, realize what I have, and not take it for granted.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?
It troubles me that so many Americans have an excess of food, while millions of kids worldwide go without any substantial meals. I know that many organizations, including Feed My Starving Children, are working to solve that problem. I would like to continue packing meals and donating to FMSC, spreading the word about simple ways we can help those in need.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.
I have demonstrated Gospel values in school by providing a listening ear, giving encouraging words and inviting people to youth group.

What is your favorite quote?
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” — Dr. Seuss

 What are your post high school plans?
After high school, I plan to attend Bethel University and study journalism.


Lauren Kissela
St. John’s Preparatory School, Collegeville – St. Joseph Parish, St. Joseph

If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be and why?
I would have a conversation with Rosa Parks because I admire her bravery and willingness to take a stand that would be opposed by the majority.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned in high school?
In high school, I learned that it is important to make decisions based on personal conscience and beliefs rather than what may be commonly accepted.

What service projects have you been involved in? How have they made a difference in your life?
For the past three summers, I have helped with the St. Joseph Summer Lunch and Learn. This program provides a free meal Monday through Thursday in the summer for anyone who may want to participate. Also, I went with a group of doctors and nurses to Guatemala as an assistant and translator as we provided health care. Both of these projects have made a difference in my life because I met many people who, although coming from different backgrounds, I could relate to and make connections with.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?
The main thing that troubles my conscience in the world is the issue of global climate change. It is worrisome to me because it has very far-reaching and destructive effects. Also, people living in more impoverished nations than us will be affected first through more difficult farming conditions or more extreme and dangerous weather.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.
There are many debated quotations from the Bible, but the undisputed root of Catholicism is, basically, to show compassion and respect to other people. I tried to apply this Gospel value in school by doing things that would be beneficial for others, such as tutoring younger students and taking an interest when someone came to me to talk about a problem.

What is your favorite quote?
“You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”  — Ayn Rand

What are your post high school plans?
Next fall, I will go to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where I plan to double major in French and public health with a minor in Spanish.


Adam Kroll
Pierz Healy High School, Pierz – Holy Trinity Parish, Royalton

Name one thing you are proud of accomplishing in high school.
I am really proud that I had the opportunity to speak and do music at multiple religion classes, retreats and other events for kids my age over the last couple of years. For me, it is super humbling and exciting to stand in front of a bunch of kids and talk about why I am Catholic. I enjoy using stories and experiences from my own life to help people have a better understanding of why the church is still relevant today in all of our lives. It’s just been a really exciting part of my life.

What is the best advice you’ve received from a teacher?
“Be yourself.” This came from my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Kelly Gangl, who has taught at Holy Trinity for over 30 years. I can’t remember if she even ever explicitly told us, “Be yourself,” but she sure taught it. She taught us to be people of integrity and reminded us to always have high moral standards even in the midst of peer pressure.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?
Our culture has become over-accepting. There is no longer a black-and-white difference between right and wrong, but rather, a fuzzy line of relativism. In school, I hear this phrase “You judging me?” all the time. The person doing wrong makes the person pointing it out look worse than the action itself. Some would say that it is only God’s place to judge, and they might be right. However, as Catholics, we can’t in good conscience be apathetic toward another who is struggling. I think it’s all of our jobs to help keep each other accountable to trying to be the person God calls us to be all the time — not just on Sunday.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.
I’ve lived out our calling as Christians to evangelize and share the Gospel in school by encouraging others to be active in their faith, whether it was by inviting them to youth group, Mass or confession. Other times I’ve talked with my classmates outside of school about different Catholic teachings or have been there to listen when they needed someone to talk to.

What is your favorite quote?
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.”
I think it can be applied to pretty much any situation. As a student, I’ve used this advice to always set goals and standards for myself so I can look back on my academic career without regrets. As Christians, it could be used to help remind us to set ourselves up for “success” in our faith life. Living life as a Catholic isn’t always easy — without a plan or a purpose, continuing to practice our faith would be significantly harder.

What are your post high school plans?
I plan to attend North Dakota State University to pursue a degree in agricultural economics. Growing up on a farm, agriculture has played a big part in my life, but I also really liked business and finance so this would be a good fit for me.


Adam Lepinski
St. John’s Preparatory School, Collegeville – St. Joseph Parish, St. Joseph

What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think and why?
“Of Mice and Men” opened my eyes about who people really are and true love about wanting what is best for someone, even though the truth is hard.

What advice would you give students entering their senior year?
I would tell people to take the classes that they want to take and explore classes that they might never have again. It’s really important to explore all career paths and try new things.

What do you appreciate most about your Catholic faith?
Being able to teach people about Christ through peer ministry and retreats.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?
Caring for the environment and our world: We need to make greener decisions and promote sustainability. Our resources are precious and we need to make sure that we can keep them around for years to come.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.
Reading prayer on a few mornings. It reminds us that we need to thank God and quiet ourselves before a busy day before school starts.

What is your favorite quote?
“Oh, the places you’ll go!” — Dr. Seuss

What are your post high school plans?
I will attend St John’s University to study business.


Ben Lepinski
St. John’s Preparatory School, Collegeville – St. John the Baptist Parish, Collegeville

Name one thing you are proud of accomplishing in high school.
My Knowledge Bowl team and I placed second in the state competition in Brainerd in April. I am very proud of our team and the way we worked together during the competitions.

What is the best advice you’ve received from a teacher?
The best advice I received from a teacher is that understanding the information presented in a class and applying it to your life is more important than getting a good grade in class on the information.

If you could go back in time five years, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself that stressing about all of the experiences in high school and making the most of those experiences makes graduating that much more rewarding.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?
The current situation on ownership in our world and country concerns me. I am concerned that a small number of very large companies provide most of the services that we use. If this market trend keeps going, an economic depression may result. We must start being conscious of the goods and services that we buy and know where they come from. The decisions we make today will provide security for generations to come.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.
I serve as a volunteer for my church and for our school. I demonstrate Gospel values by giving my time and serving others by participating in various fundraising events. I provide technical as well as audio/visual services.

What is your favorite quote?
“It is a magnificent feeling to recognize the unity of complex phenomena which appear to be things quite apart from the direct visible truth.” — Albert Einstein

What are your post high school plans?
I plan to attend St. John’s University to pursue a degree in marketing and advertising.


Andrew Manning
Manning Academy, Zimmerman – Christ Our Light Parish, Zimmerman and Princeton

Name one thing you are proud of accomplishing in high school.
The thing I am most proud of accomplishing in my high school career is a video that I wrote, directed, filmed and edited. It won Grand Champion at the Minnesota State Fair.

What is the best advice you’ve received from a teacher?
The best advice I’ve received from a teacher is, “Don’t think that as youth you can’t change the world.”

If you could go back in time five years, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself to focus more on learning to work better with other people and to get polished at public speaking because these are two really important skills to have as you go out in the world and look to achieve all that you want to.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?
One thing that troubles me is the impact that poverty and addiction have on young children in our world. I have worked with multiple groups of elementary-aged children who live surrounded by poverty and parental addiction and it is sad for me to see them not be taken care of like they should, to see them question their self-worth, and not be able to have opportunities that will help them have a great future.

I would like to see our world focus on helping children get out of the cycle of poverty and addiction so they can be everything God intended them to be.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.  
I developed and led a weekly Lenten prayer experience for teens from our parish. I learned a lot about prayer and how many different kinds of ways there are to talk to God at a church retreat called YTM. My faith was very impacted by learning about this topic. So, I decided I wanted other youth who may be struggling with their relationship with God to know how to talk to him.

What is your favorite quote?
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” — Dr. Seuss

What are your post high school plans?
My plan is to go to Anoka-Ramsey Community College for a year to get my general education out of the way, then go to IPR – College of Creative Arts to get an associate of arts degree and then to work as a director/cinematographer in the film industry.


Patrick Pastor
Cathedral High School, St. Cloud – St. Paul Parish, St. Cloud

What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think and why?
“The Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan. I learned the importance of skeptical thinking and viewing the world through different perspectives.

What advice would you give students entering their senior year?
Make the most of every minute of every hour of every day.

What do you appreciate most about your Catholic faith?
I am very grateful for the wonderful upbringing that the Catholic faith has given me. I will carry Christ’s message of morality and goodness for the rest of my life.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?
I am very troubled by the fact that there are millions of children throughout the world who will not get the opportunity to receive a quality education.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.
I try my best to demonstrate my Gospel values every day of my life by being the most kind, honest and moral person that I can be.

What is your favorite quote?
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  — J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Fellowship of the Ring”

What are your post high school plans?
I plan to attend Johns Hopkins University. I will be majoring in either electrical engineering or molecular biology (pre-med).


Mitchell Shimak
Cathedral High School, St. Cloud – St. Joseph Parish, St. Joseph

Name one thing you are proud of accomplishing in high school.
I’m proud of being the valedictorian.

What is the best advice you’ve received from a teacher?
Their best advice would be to try hard now so that I don’t regret it later.

If you could go back in time five years, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself, “Study hard and get excited about school.”

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?
What troubles my conscience most is that the situation in the Middle East makes kids like me unable to go to school.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.  
A time when I demonstrated Gospel values would be my nearly 600 hours of volunteering at the hospital.

What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t do hard work.”

What are your post high school plans?
I plan to go to the University of Minnesota for the College of Biological Sciences. I want to become a cardiothoracic surgeon.


Rudi Turner
Little Falls Community High School, Little Falls – Holy Family Parish, Little Falls

Name one thing you are proud of accomplishing in high school.
The one thing I am most proud of having accomplished during my high school career was being able to go on a pilgrimage to Poland for World Youth Day in the summer of 2016. It was a strenuous journey, but it was exceptionally rewarding. I was able to deepen my faith and build a better relationship with God by listening to the words our Holy Father, Pope Francis, spoke.

What is the best advice you’ve received from a teacher?
In middle school, my religion teacher told me that I may be the only Bible someone reads, and I should act in such a way that reflects on the values I have as a Christian.

If you could go back in time five years, what advice would you give yourself?
If I were able to go back in time five years and offer advice to myself, I would remind myself to always stay true to what I believe in and remember that I am a child of God, and those things that are happening now, the things that are bothersome, are only temporary, but God has a great plan for my future, all I have to do is trust him, put my life in his hands and follow where he leads me.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?
As unfortunate as it is, many people are turning away from God, and that is what troubles me the most. It hurts me to know that there are people in this world that know not of the everlasting love the Father has for his children. I believe that in knowing this, it is my duty to God and his people, to be the one to show his love to all I meet.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.
We are told, as Christians, to stand up for what we believe in and stand up for what is right. During my sophomore year, I had a teacher tell me that all Catholics knew to do is blame others for their imperfections and point out their flaws, deeming everyone a sinner. I knew in that moment that I had to stand up for what I believed in and I prayed that this teacher would have a change of heart. I made it known that it was not our job to judge others, but rather spread God’s love and mercy to all those we meet.

What are your post high school plans?
I am going to take classes at Central Lakes College in Brainerd to finish my general education credits and receive an associate in arts degree. Upon completing my A.A. degree, I plan to attend St. Cloud State University to major in English and become a copy editor.


 

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