Northern Tama County high schools graduate small but mighty 2024 senior classes

Graduates cross high school stages in Traer, La Porte City

Members of the North Tama County High School Class of 2024 toss their graduation caps in the air following the presentation of diplomas on Sunday, May 19, while on stage in the high school gym in Traer as part of Commencement 2024. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

Last Sunday afternoon, just over 100 area graduates with the Class of 2024 crossed their respective high school stages in Traer and La Porte City and took the next step into adulthood, diploma in hand.

Both North Tama County Community School District and Union Community School District graduated smaller than usual classes this year with North Tama awarding a total of 24 high school diplomas and Union awarding 77.

North Tama

In Traer, North Tama held commencement exercises in the high school gymnasium. Featured speakers included a welcome address by senior class president Kinsley Even and a commencement address by valedictorian Jamie Jacobs. The salutatorian was Ryan Hosek.

Principal Taylor Howard and Superintendent David Hill also provided brief remarks, while school board directors Haley Blaine and Cheryl Popelka presented the graduates with their diplomas – Popelka enjoying the honor of presenting her own son, Tyler Popelka with his.

North Tama Class of 2024 graduate Tyler Popelka, right, hugs his mother, school board member Cheryl Popelka while receiving his diploma. School board member Haley Blaine (seated) is also pictured. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

The North Tama Concert Band under the direction of Channing Halstead provided the ceremony’s music including the well-received piece “Life is a Highway” which featured the band’s graduating senior members.

The North Tama High School Class of 2024’s motto was “Sorry Skopec, but we can’t fix this cattywampus class,” – a nod to retiring, longtime high school science teacher Mike Skopec who has been a favorite of students in the district for literally generations.

The class flower was the hydrangea; class colors were lavender and gold; and the student marshals were junior class president and vice president, Johnathan Cochran and Faith Dvorak, respectively.


In La Porte City, graduates also crossed the stage in the high school gymnasium as is tradition.

Union High School Class of 2024 graduates including, from left, Emily Petersen, Ava Dyann Mills, Jaimi Lynn Hilmer, and Reagan Sorensen pose for a photograph last Sunday afternoon in Matt Auditorium prior to the start of commencement exercises. PHOTO BY GRETA WINKEL

Featured speakers included graduating seniors Olivia Hanson and Hayden Spore – introduced by Activities Director Michael Bruns – who tag-teamed their speech similar to past commencement exercises. As part of their selection to speak, the two were voted Most Representative Seniors by the student body.

Superintendent John Howard and High School Principal Jason Toenges also provided comments, while school board directors Maureen Hanson, Carleen McGivern, and Lindsay Pipho conferred diplomas – Hanson enjoying the honor of presenting her own daughter, Olivia Hanson with hers.

Union’s Concert Band under the direction of Michael Bistline and Concert Choir directed by Casey Tecklenburg, accompanied by Jen Bistline, provided the ceremony’s music which included senior members of the choir performing the National Anthem.

The Union High School Class of 2024’s motto was “Don’t cry because it is over; smile because it happened,” by Dr. Seuss. The class flower was the white rose; class colors were red and black; and the student ushers were juniors Kate Carlson, Amilian Condon, Avery Knoop, Lily Lorenzen, Ruby Parson, and Kengo Uchiyama-Hansen who were chosen on the basis of their GPAs.

High school teacher Adam Sacquitne’s horticulture class arranged the ceremony’s flowers.

The Union High School Class of 2024 poses for a group photograph in Matt Auditorium at the high school in La Porte City last Sunday afternoon moments before Commencement 2024. A total of 77 graduating seniors received diplomas during the ceremony. PHOTO BY GRETA WINKEL

‘I promise that you’ll never find another like me’

The Class of 2024 – both at the high school level and collegiate level – is the class many consider to have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic fallout which began with a vengeance in March of 2020, mere weeks from the Class of 2020’s high school graduation and a few months before the present Class of 2024’s entry into high school.

At North Tama, secondary secretary Trish Kennedy told the newspaper ahead of Sunday’s ceremony that the Class of 2024 perhaps had it most difficult in that much of their volunteer, field trip, and even sports opportunities were significantly curtailed by the pandemic.

During her commencement speech, North Tama Class of 2024 President Kinsley Even alluded to an important coping mechanism this class seemingly relied on during the last four years as the world around them experienced monumental change – humor.

“We take things very unseriously (as a class),” Even said as part of her opening. She then went on to describe several of the humorous actions the class had undertaken before calling on singer-songwriter Taylor Swift for help in describing the Class of 2024.

North Tama High School Class of 2024 graduate Emily Hulme of Clutier receives a hug from her mother Jenny Hulme outside the high school in Traer last Sunday afternoon following commencement exercises. Hulme graduated along with 23 members of her class. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

“I promise that you’ll never find another like me,” Even said, quoting from Swift’s 2019 pop hit “ME!” – a song she felt “best describes our class.” She also quoted the song’s lyrics “I know I’m a handful” and “trouble’s gonna follow where I go.”

But Even then segued, explaining that despite her class’s penchant for jokes and (sometimes) exasperating behavior, they are “the first to step up for one another” – this small but mighty class has learned the value of friendship amid an uncertain world.

And while Even never once mentioned the pandemic, going through such a formative time – high school – beginning in 2020 has certainly made some sort of mark on the world’s children who are now coming of age.

“We’ve waited a long time for this day and here it is,” Even said as part of her ending.

Congratulations to the Class of 2024, both near and far – you have certainly earned all your accomplishments over the last four years!

Ryan Hosek, right, receives a hug from his dad while standing in the receiving line outside the school in Traer following North Tama Commencement exercises last Sunday afternoon. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER