Sierra Lutheran High School’s Class of 2017 broke a record — the school’s 15th graduating class was the largest yet, with 30 seniors.
But that wasn’t the only factor celebrated at the ceremony on Saturday, as students earned $2.3 million in scholarships, granted to 83 percent of graduates.
According to the program, a majority of the students plan to pursue degrees in engineering and technology.
“This class has so many talents and academic skills,” said Pastor Juls Clausen. “They have been blessed by God for their future.”
Five valedictorians also were elected to speak for the class at the ceremony, held inside of the school’s gymnasium: Jake Cummings, Clare Davison, Elaina Marchegger, Tyler Waite and Alex Westre.
Westre — an incoming freshman at the College of Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno — said he hopes his dialogue to the class will be memorable in the long run.
“We’re all going to places,” he said. “And even though we’re only a class of 30, where else are you going to find that?”
Waite, also attending the College of Engineering this fall, said he hopes the class will keep in touch with each other throughout the years, as the class made history within the school.
“There are memories you have made and to cherish,” he said. “I hope everyone does the same. There is no other high school I would rather be at.”
But what’s equally meaningful to the group of five is they share a friendship. Many cross paths in athletics, as Davison and Marchegger ran track, while the boys competed in basketball.
“It’s pretty awesome to know the rest of the valedictorians and share this moment with them,” Cummings said.
“It’s also symbolic,” Marchegger said. “We’re celebrating as a group, a family. We’re blessed and we’re lucky to do it.”
However, the entire group isn’t relocating to UNR, like Waite and Westre.
Cummings will attend Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego to study engineering and Marchegger is heading to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, pursuing Worship Ministry.
As for Davison, she not only plans to study accounting at Wartburg College in her mother’s hometown of Waverly, Iowa, she’ll also run distance on the cross country team.
“The biggest takeaway is the people we’ve met,” she said. “As a class, we all came from the same middle school. We’re all close.”
Many students agree with Davison’s comment, such as graduate Molly McKee. She felt emotional about the transition but also is looking forward to pursuing a degree in English-writing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“I feel like my entire life has been in high school,” she said. “We’re still family and I hope we’ll keep in touch.”
“It doesn’t feel real,” said graduate Madeline Midkiff, whom plans to attend cosmetology school. “I feel like I’m leaving a piece of my heart here.”
The bond of the class may become even stronger, as one other significant figure is joining them in their departure: Clausen announced his retirement after serving four years at Sierra Lutheran.
“I came on board when this class entered as freshmen,” he said. “We started together and now, we’ll end together. It’s been a fantastic experience to see the growth in this school and how productive our students have been with our community.”
Clausen began serving as principal at Sierra Lutheran in 2013, with 42 years overall in the Missouri Synod Lutheran educational system. He also served as a teacher, coach, athletic director, chaplain, executive director, and development director during his ministry at six Lutheran high schools, and at one college.
Although his official retirement party takes place June 4 at the high school, he’s passing the torch to Academic Dean Tami Seddon.
Seddon, an alumnus of Douglas High School, helped Executive Director Norm Brauer open Sierra Lutheran in 2002. Her new role as principal will begin in August.
“I’ve been floored by the way God has blessed us,” she said. “It’s going to be an honor and I’m excited for this new chapter.”