by Paul Rignell
Thirty-nine graduates accepted diplomas from District 728 Superintendent Mark Bezek June 5 as he celebrated their commencement from Ivan Sand Community High School, joined by Principal Valerie Bakken, teachers, parents and friends.
Special guests included Michele Craig, Jennifer Haller and Diane Hermes, daughters of the deceased school founder, Ivan Sand. The sisters presented the top Student of the Year Award (including a $500 scholarship) to Hannah Gibson. Four other finalists for the honor included Hilliary Alt, Meghan Bengtson, Lacey-Marie Bowman and Ashlyn Sandstrom.
Four student speakers included Nathan Boland, who admitted he held a poor opinion of the alternative school before enrolling there himself for his senior year, as one last opportunity to move on toward a career.
“If I’ve learned anything about Ivan Sand (Community High School), it’s that everyone, and I mean everyone, has a story,” said Boland, who described his own tale as being one with lots of ability but no motivation through his junior year at Elk River High School.
He praised the Ivan Sand school staff for their support. “All of the teachers here are excellent,” Boland said. “It really is never too late to put effort into anything you’re doing,” he added of his own personal turnaround.
John Houlton, who presented scholarships on behalf of First National Bank – Elk River, said he admired these graduates for realizing that though they had once made poor choices in or out of school, they could get a second chance at high school success with determination. “When doors were slammed in your face, you kicked them back open,” Houlton said. “There’s nothing that will be closed to you folks if you allow yourselves that (more success).”
The festivities were held in Zabee Theater at Elk River High School, where school board member Janelle Henry said she was thrilled to announce the names of her first class of Ivan Sand graduates, finally getting a turn for this event since she joined the board in 2009 after also serving from 2003–2006.
Before inviting each graduate to walk across the Zabee stage and greet Bezek, Henry advised the class that they and their diplomas are of great value.