Getting ready to address their classmates at graduation, all three of Blooming Prairie High School’s honorees have a similar message — carpe diem.
A common commencement sentiment has taken on special meaning for this year’s seniors, many of whom walked the hallways for the last time in March without realizing that remote learning would continue through the end of the school year.
“At first, it was obviously hard to deal with and comprehend, because it’s never happened before,” said co-salutatorian Riauna Bishop. “But, our grade is really optimistic in these dark times — we are all very accepting of everything.”
Bishop, co-salutatorian Adam Larson and valedictorian Julia Worke will address their peers during the ceremony — which will be broadcast on 104.9 FM during the drive-thru celebration and for anyone else who would like to listen in beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 31.
Julia Worke is the daughter of John and Mary Worke. She will attend Winona State University this fall, where she plans to major in business administration and minor in Spanish.
Worke said her biggest inspirations in becoming this year’s valedictorian have been her parents, who work respectively as principal and counselor at the high school. “They’ve always pushed me to be the best I can be. My brother and sister have always excelled … and I try to meet their standards, too.”
Looking back, she added that seeing the high school football team get to state, as well as coming in second in the section on the girls’ basketball team were some of her favorite memories as a Blossom. Throughout her high school career, Worke has competed on the basketball, softball and volleyball teams. Additionally, she’s been involved in Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), student council, the National Honor Society and the speech team. Worke was also a statistician for the high school football team.
When she’s not at school, Worke said she enjoys spending time in the kitchen — and is known for her homemade cream cheese wontons, orange chicken and any type of pasta.
“My grandma was always a good cook, and I grew up watching her,” said Worke. “She passed things down to my dad, and my dad and I like to cook all the time. We’ve been making a lot of meals in quarantine.”
When it comes to her graduation speech, Worke said she wants to talk to her peers about continuing to take risks and give their all, even when the pandemic has led to a lot of fear and uncertainty about the future. As valedictorian, Worke said it’s her role as a leader to try and address these doubts. “I’m just there to let them know that it’s all going to be OK.”
Riauna Bishop is the daughter of Benji and Nicki Bishop. She will attend Minnesota State University, Mankato in the fall, with plans to major in nursing.
Throughout her high school career, Bishop has been involved in a number of activities including softball, volleyball, FCCLA, the National Honor Society and the musical. During her junior and senior year, Bishop also went over to the elementary school and worked as a classroom assistant.
“I would help students with their homework, if they were struggling with spelling or math or science fair projects,” said Bishop. “If they needed a break, on Fridays we would play a game … That was my favorite part, because their imagination is so fun.”
As a nurse, Bishop said she will likely end up working with children often and added that helping out at the elementary school has been good practice for her planned career. When it came to pushing herself at school, Bishop said her mother was one of her biggest inspirations.
“She has always pushed me to get good grades, to do well in school and to go to college,” said Bishop. “She would make sure that my homework was done before she would let me go out and do other extracurricular activities and she would always hold me accountable for my actions.”
When addressing her peers at graduation, Bishop said she wants to focus on the historic legacy the class of 2020 is leaving behind. “Our grade has left an impact on our school — we’ve made history in sports, and now we’re being the light,” she added, of the seniors’ optimism and role during the pandemic.
For underclassmen, she warns that time in high school flies by. “Go to the sporting events and dances, participate in dress-up days and homecoming, because you can’t ever get that time back,” she said. “Don’t take anything for granted and make memories with your friends and classmates.”
Adam Larson is the son of Muriel and Robert Leverington. He will begin training for the National Guard in September, with plans to then apply to the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He would like to study computer science and philosophy, and will work in computer detection systems repair for the Guard.
In being named one of this year’s co-salutatorians, Larson credited in large part his curiosity.
“I would say that my fascination with learning new things and wanting to pursue knowledge — that’s what really drove me,” he added. “It’s always been a part of who I am.”
During his high school career, Larson was part of the cross-country, track and field, and robotics teams. One of his favorite memories is participating in the annual Milaca Mega Meet, which draws nearly 6,000 cross-country runners from across the United States to central Minnesota.
“There are 300 people in each race, every time the race starts the ground shakes,” said Larson. Another highlight from the past four years has been going down to Arizona annually with the Explorer program, which provides teens with information and experience in law enforcement and first responder careers.
Outside of school, Larson enjoys running and reading. Currently, his favorite book series is “The Sword of Truth” by Terry Goodkind. “[The series] is fantasy, but I like it for the themes and what it tries to get across to the reader,” he said. “It talks about ways to go about life and how you should live.”
In his speech to the class of 2020, Larson said he wants to try to get across his own love for life.
“The biggest advice I can give anybody is to get involved in something — whether that’s a sport or the play we put on every year,” he added, of his guidance for underclassmen. “Try to get involved, because I really do think high school is a lot more enjoyable when you have something to enjoy about it.”