Watch out world, here comes the Class of 2024

Watch out world, here comes the Class of 2024
A student wearing a cap and gown gets her diploma from the superintendent

Hazen Stangl is convinced the one with the next million dollar idea, or the person who cures world hunger or brings world peace was sitting on the turf at Paul Giel Field on Friday night. 

What gives him this confidence?

"We are some of the most flexible and adaptable students our planet has ever seen," Stangl said. "Our class has not had the same schedule for more than one of any of our four years of high school. Yet, we are still gathered here, because we are ready to face the real world."

Look out real world, here comes the Class of 2024. 

Friday's ceremony, the 154th in the storied history of Winona Senior High School, brought to close a wild four-year journey that started in the middle of the COVID pandemic and ended in front of a big crowd of family and friends under a picture perfect June sky.

In between, Ike Erdmanczyk said, the students became closer through the ups and downs, the good times and the bad, and the fierce lunchroom debates.

"Even though we have all been progressing through this journey individually, we have collectively been working toward the same goal, inspiring one another without even knowing it," said Erdmanczyk, who went on to call the Class of 2024 "the greatest team I've ever been a part of."

Superintendent Brad Berzinski recalled his own WSHS graduation, lamenting that it had to be held inside Winona State's McCown Gymnasium instead of Paul Giel Field. He told the students to think of the names and faces of all the teachers who got them to this point, from the moment they walked into a kindergarten classroom to the moment they walk in front of the stage to get their diploma. WSHS principal Luke Madsen told the graduates that success lies just beyond the "splat!" and encouraged them to never give up on their journey. 
From the stands, the moms, dads, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, cousins and friends waved, snapped photos and dried a few tears. 

They all stayed on the turf at Paul Giel Field long after the last diploma was handed out, reflecting on the long journey behind them and dreaming about the future that awaits. They all seemed to heed the advice of Stangl, who ended his speech with a quote from poet Dylan Thomas: “Do not go quietly into the good night.”

The Class of 2024 certainly will not.