Elk River High School graduation set for Friday

by Nathan Warner
Contributing writer

A strong finish to a good year will see Elk River High School seniors graduating Friday, June 8 at 7 p.m. in the main gym. “This year was a very good class,” Principal Terry Bizal said. “There have been very few behavioral issues and we’ve had numerous academic achievements from individuals. These kids have been very respectful to staff, fellow students and the building.”

Bizal added that this year’s students were approachable and attentive during the September and May class conversations that were designed to keep their last year in perspective. The conversation in May was focused on what the students needed to accomplish in their last month to ensure they walked across the high school stage on graduation day and succeed in their lives afterwards. “We count any kind of post secondary education as success,” he added, “whether it’s a six-month degree or six years.”

“This class takes care of each other,” Assistant Principal Ken Jordan said, “and I think they’re closer to one another than any other class I’ve seen in a long time.” He says the students have many talents, with a special strength for creativity and the arts.

For Jordan, the low of the year was realizing that nearly 50 students had left the high school since first enrolling as freshmen. “It’s most likely due to life changes and we just have to trust that they chose other pathways to a diploma,” he said, stressing that one of the highlights of the year was the class’ unwavering support of the Elk River High School football team. “They really stuck by them. I think that really set the tone for the year,” he said, “and they hung onto it.”

That tone reached a high academic note this month when senior Phillip Knutson was named a 2012 National Merit Scholar, making him the only student in ISD 728 to receive the prestigious honor and the first from ERHS since 2007.

The Elk River High School culinary team also cooked up acclaim earlier this year, when they took the top prize and the state title at Minnesota’s 2012 ProStart Invitational culinary competition. Members of the team traveled to Baltimore, Md. in April to represent Minnesota at the National ProStart Student Invitational.

Overall, students have aimed high and struck their mark this year, social studies teacher Troy McGowan says. “They’ve been really focused on academics and on making a difference in their communities and the world,” he said.