One year, two months and 19 days ago, Michael Pliscott told friends, family and staff gathered at Sunday’s Kenyon-Wanamingo commencement, students took what they thought was just a one week break from school.

Michael Pliscott

Board scholar Michael Pliscott presents his farewell address towards the end of the commencement ceremony. (Michelle Vlasak/

Little did they know, that seven-day-break would lead to over one year of distant learning, masks, missed concerts, events and most importantly each other.

Crowd cheers

Friends, family, staff and school board members applaud the class of 2021 as High School Principal Matt Ryan introduces them. (Michelle Vlasak/

Through all of the challenges the class of 2021 went through, in his speech, the senior focused on the positives that were brought out — stronger friendships, a closely knit class and many life lessons.

“We didn’t just go through school together, we missed going through it together,” said Pliscott during his farewell address. “We were undeniably excited to be back together.”

Graduation rates

Graduating 63 students, Kenyon-Wanamingo High School's 2020 graduation rate was 91.3%. This year, K-W graduated 52 students. (File photo/

Speeches from other seniors and administrators during the 31st KWHS Commencement Ceremony focused on perseverance, adaptation, improvisation and overcoming obstacles.

Grad reactions

K-W 2021 seniors reflect after tossing their caps in the air. (Michelle Vlasak/

Speaking on behalf of the class of 2021, Katie Van Epps told the crowd of supporters during her welcome address that it was a blessing to be in the same room with everyone.

Katie Van Epps

K-W senior Katie Van Epps delivers the welcome address at the KWHS 31st Commencement Ceremony. (Michelle Vlasak/

Through the unique circumstances they were given, Van Epps said the class of 2021 learned to grow and support each other.

“We said ‘we will,’ instead of ‘we cannot,’” said Van Epps. “Never once did we say we cannot do this and we are all doomed.”

Moving tassel

Making it official, the class of 2021 moves their tassels to the show that they graduated. (Michelle Vlasak/

Superintendent Bryan Boysen, too, focused on the students’ “I can” state of mind during his welcome speech to those in attendance.


Kenyon-Wanamingo Superintendent Bryan Boysen welcomes the class of 2021 and their family and friends to the commencement ceremony. (Michelle Vlasak/

Seniors Caroline Doehling, Aisha Ramirez and Brianna Ryan presented the senior reflection, sharing a handful of the many memories and inside jokes that were made over the years, like water balloon fights in elementary school, the trip to Eagle Bluff, school dances and powderpuff, while building friendships along the way.

Senior reflection

Senior reflection

Board scholars Caroline Doehling, Aisha Ramirez and Brianna Ryan present the senior reflection and share memories they’ve made with the class of 2021 over the years. (Michelle Vlasak/

Musical performances were done by the K-W High School Band, including the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” by Edward Elgar arr. Howard E. Akers for the processional and K-W school song. During the recessional, the band played “Into the Clouds” by Richard Saucedo. Members of the K-W High School Chorale sang “We Sing” by Brian Tate and “Song of Farewell” by Garry A. Cornell during the ceremony.

Crowd cheers

Friends, family, staff and school board members applaud the class of 2021 as High School Principal Matt Ryan introduces them. (Michelle Vlasak/


The Kenyon-Wanamingo High School Band and Chorale performed various selections during Sunday's ceremony like "Pomp and Cirumstance," "We Sing," "Song of Farewell" and "Into the Clouds." (Michelle Vlasak/

Diplomas were presented by Tonya Craig and Debb Paquin on behalf of the K-W Board of Education. Craig, School Board Vice Chair, presented Doehling with the School Board Award for her time attending meetings and providing fun recaps of the current events at the school.

Taking photos

Graduates gather outside to take photos with family and friends after the ceremony. (Michelle Vlasak/

Board scholars Doehling, Pliscott, Ramirez, Ryan and Van Epps were recognized with a gold cord for achieving a 4.3 GPA or better. Seniors Kristin Finley, Hayden Poquette and Daniel Van Epps graduated with high distinction, 4.0 GPA up to a 4.3 GPA, symbolized with a silver cord. Students Sierra Belcher, Hailey Lerfald, Xitalic Mendoza, Logan Meyers, Brenden Raths, Thomas Sturgis and Casey Wesbur graduated with honors, earning a 3.5 GPA up to a 4.0 GPA, marked with a white cord.

Reception line

A reception line was formed outside of Kenyon-Wanamingo High/Middle School for graduates to be recognized by family and friends. (Michelle Vlasak/

National Honor Society members recognized during the ceremony were Belcher, Doehling, Finley, Lerfald, Meyers, Pliscott, Poquette, Ramirez, Ryan, Sturgis, Daniel Van Epps and Katie Van Epps. Sturgis was awarded the Excellent Attendance award for only missing four class periods throughout his time at the high school.

Handing out lillies

Junior Honor Marshals hand seniors a lily, the class flower, during the recessional. Pictured walking down the gymnasium are Brennen Boyd and Xitlalic Mendoza. (Michelle Vlasak/

Junior class honor marshals Evan Brossard, Julia Dahl, Rachel Nesseth, Hannah Peters, John Smith and Alex Vold were also recognized during the ceremony for their academic standing in the top 10% of the junior class. The honor marshals distributed programs at the beginning of the event and gave each graduating senior a lily during the recessional.

Junior Honor Marshals

Junior Honor Marshals

Junior Honor Marshals Evan Brossard, John Smith and Alex Vold hand out programs at Sunday’s commencement ceremony. Brossard, Smith and Vold, along with Julia Dahl, Rachel Nesseth, Hannah Peters are all ranked in the top 10% of their class. (Michelle Vlasak/

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128 or follow her on Twitter @apgmichelle. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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