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By JIM LUTGENS
It wasn’t a typical graduation ceremony.
But this isn’t a typical year.
Fifty-five NRHEG High School seniors officially graduated Sunday, May 31, though certainly not the way they expected.
Instead of the usual ceremony in the gymnasium where students walk across the stage to receive their diploma, graduates and guests remained in their motor vehicles — parked about 8 feet apart — as the commencement was moved to the grassy area west of the school in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Police were present at both entrances and most of those helping with the festivities wore facemasks. A large stage was set up on a flatbed trailer, flanked by two semi trailers, with a big screen above the stage.
No outside visitors were allowed, though a few watched from neighboring yards. At the conclusion, a fireworks display replaced the tradition of gathering in the street for congratulations and photos.
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SOCIAL DISTANCING — NRHEG High School’s 2020 co-valedictorians Alexandra Combs, left, and Jayna Domeier practice proper social distancing.?(Star Eagle photo by Melanie Piltingsrud)
By MELANIE PILTINGSRUD
Lexi Combs, the daughter of Lisa Combs, is co-valedictorian with Jayna Domeier this year at NRHEG High School.
Winning valedictorian was not a complete surprise to Combs. “I have always kept an eye on my grades and did my best to ensure they were all A's,” she says. “When it came time to announce the valedictorians, I knew I had been at a 4.0 GPA throughout high school. I was working toward becoming valedictorian. Somewhere along the way, it became a goal of mine. I've always strived for a 4.0 GPA.”
Combs is candid about her struggle to study consistently. “Honestly, I don't have the best study habits,” she says. “For my College Chemistry final last year, I would study anywhere from three hours to eight hours straight. My best habit, though, is I don't wait to study, because I find that cramming really doesn't work for me.
“Studying has become much more challenging because of the stay-at-home order,” Combs continues. “It can be difficult to motivate myself to study when everything is so different than I'm used to it being.”
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READY — From left: Sharon Ramaker, Larry Jensen, (window) Robin Eder, Teri Korman, (window) Brooke Krohn, Oliver and Carrie Petsinger, Geneva Fire Chief Curt Boswell, (window) Wendy Schultz, Daniel Nydegger, (window) Angie Aaseth, Mark Domeier, (window) Brenda Dobberstein, Doug Anderson, Randy Schott, Deb Bently. Below is Andrew Bailey. (Star Eagle photos by Eli Lutgens)
By ELI LUTGENS
It was a somber day for NRHEG.
Typically, graduation is a group event where every senior is together one final time. The class of 2020 will not get the typical experience. They will not experience a senior prom, Baccalaurette, or even, their final day of class. What they get is bittersweet.?
With 17 days left until the official conclusion of the 2019-20 school year, seniors were delivered yard signs and good wishes Monday night across the school district, complete with caravans led by fire trucks.?
It's hard to imagine what seniors are going through, the thoughts going through their minds. Some people say graduation is for the parents more than the seniors. That may be the case. As school buses made their rounds Monday night, one comment stuck out, "This is kind of fun," said one volunteer firefighter from Geneva.
Caravans quickly formed as the faculty made their rounds of deliveries. The stops were short and the conversations brief as cars started lining up behind the school bus, fire truck and fire truck vehicle. As the sirens and horns honked, Deb Bentley, Brook Olson and Robin Eder all ran out to greet the high school senior at each stop.
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NRHEG grad places in national tourney
STRONG SHOWING — Molly Hlebichuk, left, and Alexis Anderson, runners-up in the women’s B doubles division at the 68th National Handball Collegiate Tournament, proudly show their medals. (Submitted photo)
Alexis Anderson never expected to become a handball player.
But it’s safe to say she’s glad she did.
Anderson, a Minnesota State-Mankato University freshman and a 2019 graduate of NRHEG, competed in the 2020 National Handball Collegiate Tournament at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas on Feb. 19-23. Collegiate handball players representing 36 institutions from around the world participated in the five-day event.
Anderson, who participated in four sports at NRHEG, needed one more credit for her fall quarter at MSU and wanted to stay physically fit, so she decided to sign up for the handball course. Never having played handball, she was excited to try a new sport. When she attended the class, she found out she was the only girl. But that did not bother her. She was up for the challenge.
Anderson’s instructor and MSU’s handball coach, Dr. Michael Wells, saw her playing and was impressed with her skills and asked how long she had been playing handball. He was surprised to hear she had never touched a handball before. He encouraged her to join the MSU handball team and, with his continued persistence, he recruited her for the squad.
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EMPTY FEELING — NRHEG instructor Shawn Larson’s classroom sits empty as Gov. Walz has extended the Distance Learning order through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
The nearly 60 members of the New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (NRHEG) Class of 2020 can expect some rather noisy visitors the evening of May 4 beginning around 6 p.m. Community members and school staff will be lining up behind leader vehicles and driving to the homes of each class member, where they will share their good wishes and deliver an individually prepared gift.
School staff and others are invited to gather by 6 p.m. in their vehicles near either of the district’s two school buildings. There, participants will be organized behind leader vehicles and will follow delivery routes focused around each of the district’s towns.
“The people of the NRHEG community are constantly contacting us, asking what they can do to help support these seniors,” says NRHEG Athletic Director Dan Stork. “We thought this would be a very visible, very cheerful way to show the Class of 2020 that their communities are thinking of them, and want to see their accomplishments acknowledged.”