Photo by Chris Rogers
Winona Senior High School seniors Spencer Hodge, Emily Krause, and Dante DeGrazia (from left to right) are excited about the independence, opportunities, and new experiences that await them after WSHS's June 7 graduation. As a whole, the class of 2013 is optimistic, but some students are concerned about the job market they will be entering.
In the next two weeks, hundreds of Winona area high school seniors will graduate and begin one of life's biggest transitions: becoming an independent adult. Despite the many different paths ahead of them, seniors shared similar feelings about this moment in their lives. Excitement and optimism was brimming among seniors as they trailed out of an assembly with speakers sharing advice and inspiration. For many that excitement was mixed with sadness at leaving their friends, nervousness about the unknown, and, for some, concerns about the job market ahead.
Winona Senior High School (WSHS) senior Emily Krause plans to attend college in the fall. She said with exuberance, "I'm excited to explore a new community and get to know a lot of new people. I'm excited to be independent."
"It's going to be a new experience. It's going to mean freedom," WSHS senior Tawni Kramer said. Kramer plans on attending cosmetology school this fall.
"I'm excited to be appreciated for what I've learned in between classes and apply it," said WSHS senior Spencer Hodge, who plans to attend Luther College.
The change of scenery and new-found independence ahead for seniors will require some adjustment.
"Now, everything that goes wrong is our fault," laughed WSHS senior Emily Gernes, pointing out the increased responsibility she and her classmates will face. Gernes will study at the Univeristy of Wisconsin-Stout this fall.
"I'm excited to move on, but I'm really going to miss my friends," said WSHS senior Hunter Kruse, who plans on studying at Iowa Central Community College.
"It's bitter sweet," said WSHS senior Daniel Kronebusch of leaving old friends and making new ones.
That is just how it is, WSHS senior Russell Crawford said. Crawford, who plans to begin working and try his hand in the music scene, said, "I'm going to miss people, but it's time to start life."
Some seniors had trepidations about the difficult job market out in the "real world," with persistent unemployment and the slow, so-called jobless, economic recovery after the 2008 financial crisis.
Kronebusch, who plans on attending Winona State University, said he had mixed feelings about the opportunities ahead of him.
"It goes both ways," he said. "It's exciting knowing the possibilities, but it's unsure too." He explained, "You don't know if you're going to have a job. I know a lot of people who are unemployed and we are going to be competing with them, and we don't have experience." That puts new graduates at the bottom of a totem pole that has been tough for recent graduates to climb, Kronebusch said.
When asked if she was anxious about anything, WSHS senior Megan Larson said, "The cost of college. And not having a job is scary." Larson plans on studying at Minnesota State Mankato.
Still, Larson and her friends said they were optimistic. WSHS senior Dante DeGrazia said of the "real world," "It's not very scary. There are lots of opportunities out there for creativity." DeGrazia plans on attending Luther College.
WSHS Counselor Matt Horel helps advise students with questions about their futures. "A lot of kids are in that boat: not sure what to do, scared to take that next step," he said. Anxiety is understandable, but should be put aside "when you put things in perspective," Horel said, referencing a recent speech by Winona Middle School Principle Dave Anderson about recovering from cancer and embracing life.
When asked what advice he had for seniors, Horel had three recommendations. The number thing he encourages students to do is "venture out and experience as much as possible." A broad range experiences will form them as people and serve them well in the work place, he said.
Also, "you need a network from day one," he said. "You need to know your community."
Finally, Horel advised students to get some kind of experience in their field, whether through work or volunteering. Having some background is key when it comes time to apply for jobs, he said.
Approximately 300 seniors are expected to walk at WSHS's commencement ceremony on Friday, June 7. Around 85 Cotter High School seniors will receive their diplomas on Saturday, June 1 at 1 p.m. Winona Senior High School is holding its commencement on Friday, June 7.