Local grads reflect on life lessons

Photo by Alexandra Retter


From left, Cotter Schools Principal Dave Forney and recent graduates Bryce Tienter, Andi Teske and Cecilia Galke march in during the school’s recent graduation ceremony.



Local students in the class of 2022 are embarking on their post-high-school journeys. Several reflected on the classes, activities and lessons that shaped them as K-12 students.

For some students, mentoring others was a valuable school experience. Through sports and activities, recent Cotter Schools graduate Megan Morgan gained leadership, sportsmanship and time management skills. She also learned about fostering community. “We know when we’re playing, whether we’re in the band or on the soccer field or anything, there’s younger students that are always, always watching us, so we want to be role models for them,” she said. 

Students had their favorite classes and activities, as well. Lewiston-Altura High School senior Jaydon Boynton enjoyed PE classes, as well as social studies and math courses. He was also part of the football, baseball and wrestling teams.

Lewiston-Altura High School senior Katie Ketchum appreciated agriculture, science and math classes. “It really helped me develop what I want to do in the future,” Ketchum said of her classes. She was a member of the volleyball and softball teams, as well. She also managed the girls’ varsity basketball team. Along with sports, Ketchum was on student council and in National Honor Society (NHS). She took part in FFA, additionally.  

Boynton and Ketchum agreed that learning about the environment in the school’s forest was a highlight of their time as students. 

At Cotter Schools, Morgan was drawn to English, religion, speech and Spanish classes. She was a member of the basketball, soccer and softball teams and served as captain for basketball and soccer. She participated in band as a trumpet player, choir, student council and NHS as well. She also completed community service. 

Recent Cotter graduate Tate Gilbertson appreciated English and religion classes. Gilbertson played football, basketball and baseball and served as captain for football and basketball. He also was part of band for a number of years, playing the tuba. Taking part in community service was another piece of his time in school.

For senior Allie Filzen at Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS), English became one of her favorite classes because she enjoys writing and had good teachers for the subject. She also took some honors and advanced classes. “So I think academic grit is something that I’ve really built up, and the ability to take harder classes that challenge me but be able to work through them and learn from them,” Filzen said. She played volleyball and basketball. On the basketball team, she was a captain. She is also part of NHS. Outside of school, she showed animals through 4-H. Most recently, she mainly showed rabbits. 

Students’ favorite classes were opportunities to gain insight. Gilbertson learned about leadership. “I was able to blossom into more of a role model for the younger kids, and I feel like I actually showed them a good path to go down throughout high school,” he said. 

Morgan grew in her faith. “We start all our class periods with prayer, so we just really focus on keeping God at the center of our teaching or academics,” she said. 

Taking part in sports and activities led to some memorable moments. Morgan will never forget the girls soccer team playing at U.S. Bank Stadium this year for states. “The amount of Cotter supporters that came to that game was amazing,” she said. “We had our pep band there in the student section and alumni and friends. So that was just one moment where we saw the whole community come together.”

Celebrating a win against a top football team was a favorite moment for Boynton, while Ketchum enjoyed going to various conventions for FFA and meeting people from across the U.S. 

Making new friends at the state fair grounds while preparing for livestock showing with 4-H is a favorite memory of Filzen’s. Filzen also looks back fondly on her basketball team from her sophomore year. “I just remember we were all super close, and we had really good team chemistry. And no matter if we won or lost, it didn’t really matter to us. We always had a lot of fun, even off the court and on the bus,” she said. As Filzen continued playing through high school, she appreciated having the opportunity to get to know younger students she played with and help be a leader for them. 

Chances to grow came with those fun moments. Filzen learned about pushing herself just the right amount and collaborating. “I’ve learned a lot about how to work well with others, even if you have different views than them or tension or struggles with them,” she said. 

“It’s definitely taking away how I can be better as a person and grow and help others, also meeting new people and getting out of my comfort zone,” Ketchum said. 

Gilbertson learned about communicating and making quick decisions. 

While in high school, the class of 2022 also faced a couple years of learning in a pandemic environment. Students agreed that it took some time to adjust to being back at school full-time after learning at home. However, connecting more with classmates and family was a benefit, they said. “I found that I got a lot closer with my family when that happened because I started spending a lot more time with my younger brother and my family, and finding things I could do with my younger brother instead of going out and being with friends. So I think that’s also impacted how much I value my family, and really helped me understand how important family is,” Filzen said. 

Students are now celebrating their accomplishments with friends, family and educators. Gilbertson was “nervous but also really excited” and feeling well-prepared for college. Morgan eagerly anticipated seeing staff, friends and families at the graduation ceremony, in addition to an all-school mass the morning of graduation. “We feel very loved and celebrated all day,” she said. 

“I’m just looking forward to getting my high school diploma, and to look at my parents and see how proud they are of me and how far I’ve come from the beginning of school to now,” Boynton said. 

“Graduating is obviously a once-in-a-lifetime thing … so just looking forward to cherishing that moment,” Filzen said. “And I know it will be bittersweet, but having that experience in life I feel like is really important.” 

Meanwhile, students are looking ahead to their future plans. Boynton will attend Wartburg College, and he is looking forward to meeting new people.

Ketchum will attend the University of Wisconsin River Falls to major in agricultural education. She is excited to get outside her comfort zone and meet new people. 

Morgan will attend the College of St. Benedict, where she will play basketball, participate in choir and complete community service. 

Gilbertson will study sports management at North Dakota State University. He looks forward to going to sporting events.   

Filzen will study child development and psychology at the University of Minnesota Mankato. She is looking forward to growing independently, making new friends and spending more time with her roommate, whom she has already met.