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Parting words: Commencement speakers to congratulate, inspire grads

Four 2017 graduates will speak at commencement. Pictured, from left, are Jacob Streeter, Lexi Van Vossen, Becca Francis and Gabrielle Novak. Michelle Wirth / RiverTown Multimedia

On June 9, four Hastings High School graduates will have the opportunity to be the last voice for the graduating class of 2017.

Becca Francis, Lexi VanVossen, Gabrielle Novak and Jacob Streeter were selected as the commencement speakers out of 18 students who auditioned.

All four speeches will weave together in a way that will both congratulate and encourage the class of 2017 to continue to accomplish more in the future, Francis said.

Francis will present the welcome speech, something her sister did just four years ago and one of the reasons she also wanted to speak at commencement. Throughout her four years at HHS, Francis has been involved with peer helpers, student council, Link Crew, YoungLife, Overflow, National Honor Society and more. Most importantly, she continued to develop her passion for singing and the stage. Francis plans to major in biological systems engineering at the University of Nebraska Lincoln in the fall.

In Francis' speech, she compares high school to a masterpiece. As freshmen, the class couldn't see the bigger picture but as graduates they can step back at see the beautiful picture that was created.

"I talk about how we should continue to make edits and continue to color on our masterpieces as we grow older because we can further this masterpiece into something greater," Francis said.

VanVossen's speech is a metaphor to a historical symbol or focal point in the city; the bridge. If high school is compared to a bridge, the graduates have been slowly crossing it, she said. There have been accomplishments and bumps in the road, but they made it to the other side.

"The road after the bridge doesn't lead to a dead end and you can choose the path you want to take," VanVossen said.

VanVossen has been involved with the soccer team, link Crew, National Honor Society, Spanish Honors Society, Science Club and Youth in Government. She will major in mathematics at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, next year.

Novak will present the third commencement speech at graduation. She has participated in several activities throughout high school including Young Life, Student council, Link Crew, National Honor Society, Youth in Government and vacation bible schools. She has also put in many hours at the local Dairy Queen. Novak plans to study mathematics at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities this fall.

Novak said that she really wants to grab the audience's attention and have them realize that "this it is and it's us, we're here at graduation." Novak said that she will reflect on past memories in her speech but also challenge the graduates to make the rest of their lives memorable.

Streeter has been involved with football, basketball, National Honor Society, Spanish Honors Society, a little bit of soccer and he was elected Senior Class Secretary this past year. He plans to study economics and marketing at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the fall.

Streeter will close out the student speakers with a speech about making a difference. He will refer to the class motto of "put a ding in the universe" and challenge the graduates to do something that could make even the smallest of differences.

Streeter said that the commencement speakers are the voices of the class and they will get a message across to the other graduates that they have accomplish lots of things throughout high school.

"Even with bumps in the road and adversities, we've still conquered this and we made it to this graduation together," Streeter said.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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