Grads told to help others while uncomfortable

Ozaukee Press staff

The 66 members of the Cedar Grove-Belgium High School class of 2022 were told to do more than achieve their own goals at Sunday’s commencement.

They were asked to be good people.

Principal Josh Ketterhagen said to help others achieve their goals as well, and to have fun along the way.

“Regardless of what you’re striving for when you leave this place, enjoy the journey,” he said.

The keynote speaker, middle school English language arts teacher Mary Anne Rodgers, first joked about being chosen by the students to address the class.

“I can’t help but wonder if maybe this is just payback for those really terrible speeches I made you give at the end of seventh grade,” she said.

On a serious note, the 35-year teaching veteran shared a story from when she was 23 and teaching in Ohio. One of her students was killed in a car accident two weeks before the end of the school year.

As she watched his friends carry his casket, she said, “I realized that the previous two years I could not remember a single personal conversation I had with this young man. I completely lost sight of what’s important about my job,” she said.

“At the end of his life I feel confident that he knew how to write a five-paragraph essay, and it totally didn’t matter.”

It was then she promised herself she would be a different teacher.

“What’s important about my job is not the subject that I teach. What’s important about my job is people like you,” she said.

She knows she can’t reach everyone, and she used a story from the Bible to make peace with that.

She mentioned how Mary of Bethany once poured expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet to honor him. Others were critical of her, but Jesus stepped in and said, “She did what she could and he promised for at that she would always be remembered, and that has become my inspiration, to do what I could,” Rodgers said.

“Never forget that the people in this room have given you the best that they have. You are our legacy and we are confident that you’re going to make us proud.”

She asked the class to do the same for others.

“Use your gift to benefit someone other than yourself,” she said.

Supt. Chad Brakke relayed a story about debating whether to attend a celebration of life in his hometown in Wyoming.

In the end, he went, “and it was inconvenient but I was very, very happy that I went.”

While reconnecting with old high school friends, he said “It always amazes me how impactful those years in high school are. It’s this time in high school that bonds you as a group forever.”

What sticks with people, he said, is what kind of person someone was: “how they treated you, how they made you feel and the times that they were there for you when you needed them.”

One of Brakke’s favorite sayings, he said, is “If your life was a book, would anybody want to read it?”

Time and experiences have led him to alter that question to, “I think we also have to ask ourselves, ‘If our life was a book, would I want anyone to read it?’”

Being a productive member of society is important, he said, but “We can do that and still make the time for the people we care about.”

Valedictorian Cole Ketterhagen, the principal’s son, asked “How do we get comfortable being uncomfortable?”

He and his classmates took the full brunt of the Covid shutdown during their sophomore year when “an extra week of spring break turned into an entire quarter of online school.”

As juniors, attendance at athletic and other events was limited, and “not knowing if we’d be quarantined the next day was terrifying, and the stress began to build up,” Ketterhagen said.

Senior year quickly came and flew by.

Those experiences taught Ketterhagen something.

““All of us can get uncomfortable. We can all put ourselves out there,” he said.

“I challenge you to get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Class officers Lyndsay Sass, Jocelyn Wieberdink, Lila Weyker and Ketterhagen presented the class gifts, a banner with the school song to be hung in the gym and a new camera for publications class that puts the yearbook together.

Matt Speaks was honored as the only member of the class to enter the military. He will join the Air Force.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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