Union grads cross finish line

Union graduates Breanna Weltzin (left), Elliana Wilson (right) and Sophia Winkelpleck (right) proceed into the Union High School gymnasium for the 2021 commencement ceremony on May 21. Darvin Graham/NT Telegraph

Graduation commencement ceremonies returned to semi-normal for the Union Community Class of 2021 after a year unlike any other.

While the Class of 2020 was forced to weather its own set of unique challenges with the spring semester being interrupted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Class of 2021 returned to the classroom to face nine months of uncertainty.

On May 23, graduating students, families and faculty gathered in the high school gymnasium to honor the accomplishments of the senior students and put a punctuation mark behind their final year as Union Knights.

Class speakers for commencement were Tyson Fleshner and Sarah Roberts. In a joint speech, the duo took time to thank and recognize parents, teachers and classmates for the variety of efforts that go into educating and supporting a group of students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Ever since the beginning of our educational careers, (our parents) have gone from dressing us to helping us with our homework,” Roberts said. “And as we get closer to being on our own, they have and will serve as the voice of reason that keeps us going on the path to success in the future.”

Senior class speakers Tyson Fleshner and Sarah Roberts gave a joint speech to their fellow seniors at Union’s commencement on May 21. The graduating class for 2021 included 77 students. Darvin Graham/NT Telegraph

The graduate speakers also delivered an ode to their teachers with a top five list of most memorable and impactful teacher quotes from Union High School.

In closing, Flesher offered encouragement and gratitude for his fellow classmates.

“Whatever your future goals are, remember, just focus on the journey and truly embrace your time trying to build those goals,” Fleshner said. “The days can be long, but the weeks are short. As we have all experienced, the years will fly by even faster. Class of 2021, thank you for all the memories and we can’t wait to see where the future takes us.”

Faculty addresses came from Superintendent Travis Fleshner and High School Principal Jason Toenges.

Fleshner encouraged graduates to look inward and find ways to be the best version of themselves without letting outside input affect self-worth.

Union graduates and audience members stand as Assistant Principal Wayne Slack delivers opening remarks during commencement on May 21. Photos by Darvin Graham/NT Telegraph

In his speech, Toenges reflected back on the last year and spoke about persistance and perseverance displayed by students this year and how it can carry with them into their post-secondary lives.

“You have persisted in the face of overwhelming odds, that this school year would work,” Toenges said. “You wanted events, you wanted to be here and you wanted to learn, whether you’d admit it or not. And for that, I’m proud to serve here. You stepped up to the plate and realized how blessed you were to get to do the things that you were able to do. You kept working at it. And you made it.”

Returning to the commencement tradition this year were the Union Concert Band and Choir. Along with the processional and recessional, the band played a song titled “Danse Bohemien” and were directed by Mike Bistline. The choir, under the direction of Tim Mitchell, sang the song “Flight Song” by Kim Arnesen.

Students were acknowledged for honors in classroom performance and volunteer hours ahead of the presentation of diplomas.

Following the presentation of diplomas, the class was presented and the group exited to the school’s front lawn to greet the new graduates and take photos.