A few final lessons for Richfield’s class of 2017


David Munoz celebrates with a yelp as he and classmates exit a ballroom at the Minneapolis Convention Center July 9, following the commencement of the Richfield High School class of 2017. (Sun Current staff photos by Andrew Wig)

Richfield High School’s graduating seniors got one last round of advice June 9 as they prepared to commence life as adults.

The class of 2017 walked out the doors of the Minneapolis Convention Center as high school graduates armed with a clean slate and a world of opportunity, Assistant Superintendent Leadriane Roby reminded the students in their final minutes as a captive audience of high-schoolers.

Students who underperformed in high school can excel in college, and those who underperform in college can still make a difference in the workforce, Roby said.

“It’s about what type of employee, colleague, person you are,” she said.

Success in life, though, is a personal concept, taking all variety of forms, Roby continued.

Stacy Garcia beams as she walks into a Minneapolis Convention ballroom with the rest of the Richfield High School class of 2017.

“You can’t judge it for others, and don’t let others judge it for you,” she said.

The graduates heard from peers at the lectern, too. After helping lead a student walkout two weeks earlier to protest the state of race relations in school, Lary Lopez remained firm enough in administrators’ good graces that he was allowed to address his classmates.

He was one of the more active students at Richfield High School, Assistant Principal Eric Paulson noted as he introduced Lopez.

“He was part of probably more than half the clubs in Richfield,” including DECA, theater and GLOW (Gay Lesbian or Whatever), Paulson noted.

Members of Richfield High School’s class of 2017 fling their hats following commencement July 9 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Graduating without the presence of his parents, who were deported to Mexico, Lopez offered his resulting perspective on life.

“In this life it doesn’t matter what we own or how expensive something is,” he said. “That’s never going to matter. What really does matter in our lives are the people around us – our friends and family, our teachers, even our enemies.”

Finding the individuals who matter is “what the next portion of our lives are for, to really find ourselves and find the people who really do care for us,” Lopez said.

Richfield’s other student commencement speaker, Kyle Odefey, told classmates about his own loss, his mother having succumbed to colon cancer. He recounted how he struggled with grief and sorrow until gaining the sense of control that he was trying to pass along to his classmates.

Supporters of graduates let their feelings be known as the outgoing seniors walk the stage to receive their diplomas.

In that sense, Odefey, a distinguished member of the Richfield theater program and a budding filmmaker, compared living life to writing a movie.

“We aren’t the movie itself. That’s what I think many of us get wrong. Instead, we are actually the script, the part of the movie we don’t get to see,” Odefey said.

Whatever their exploits, graduates should know they won’t impress everyone, not that they shouldn’t strive, Principal Latanya Daniels told them.

“Work hard and be great,” she urged. “Not everyone will like you or your social media posts, but you will live, and you will be stronger and more resilient as a result of it.”

Like Roby, Odefey reminded his classmates of the blank pages lying before them.

“Guess what,” Odefey told his classmates on their last day together. “Today is the day when we begin a new scene.

“ … You are in complete control of it, so make it the best script ever. Make it one with twists and turns. Make it with love and romance. Make it daring and courageous. But most importantly, make it yours, because one day somebody might take the script you’ve written and turn it into a movie.”

Contact Andrew Wig at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RISunCurrent.