Extended family and friends of PRHS Class of 2017 graduate Faisa Ismail Ali gathered for photos and fellowship following the May 26 commencement ceremony.
Presented with diplomas, on stage and waiting in the wings, are sisters Thao Thanh Thi Le and Thuan Bich Thi Le. Foreground, school board chairman Charlie Blixt and background, Principal Brian Korf.
The Class of 2017 selected the mini cactus as the “Class Flower.” Each of the 52 graduates received a cactus for themselves, and Domanic Chenze displays his cactus here.
Graduates are pictured here, seated below the class motto, which spanned the south wall of the gym. The Class of 2017 has the distinction of being the first to graduate in the newly renovated and expanded high school campus.

“Look around at the Class of 2017,” said Pelican Rapids School Board Chairman Charlie Blixt, as he prepared to introduce the graduates at commencement May 26.

“Regardless of what is said in the media–this is what the United States looks like,” said Blixt. “This is what the world looks like.”

Pelican Rapids High School Graduates file out after
receiving their

Understanding, respect, dignity–this is what builds character,  continued Blixt, fighting back tears and acknowledging that the subject of ethnic and cultural diversity is an emotional one for him.

“And it is your character that separates you from everyone else,” he concluded.

With that, the 52 member Class of 2017 received their diplomas and tossed their hats in the air.

Inspirational words were delivered by the school’s top four students: Valedictorian Preston Hart; and co-salutatorians Bailey Shulstad, Mason Thornton and Jennifer Hernandez.

Inspiration also came from Superintendent Deb Wanek, participating in her final Pelican graduation ceremony. She is retiring at the end of June, after ten years with the district.

“If you want to be who you want to be, it has to be intentional…you have to set a course,” said Wanek. “You get to choose.”

When students graduate, “we turn a bit of America over to you…It’s a big responsibility.”

“You are in charge of you, ” concluded Wanek.  “And we’re excited to see–who you will be.”

Wanek asked school board members not to call any special attention to her pending departure, noted Blixt. She wanted the commencement evening to focus on the students.

But, of course, that wasn’t going to happen.

Blixt commended Wanek and reminded the graduates that, in various ways, they have benefitted from what Wanek had accomplished over the past decade. She initiated several academic programs that Blixt believes will pay benefits to students–even if they don’t realize it today.  He also credited her for the very gymnasium in which commencement was hosted, which was part of a $24 million high school expansion and renovation that was completed during her tenure. She also kept the district fiscally sound during difficult financial times, said Blixt.

Prior to the presentation of diplomas, Principal Brian Korf introduced honor students and the top students of the Class of 2017.

The class motto was a reminder that Pelican Rapids will always be a special place for the graduates.

“Chase your dreams but always know the road that’ll lead you home again.”