February 21, 2024

‘Unique’ Creston class of 2023 says farewell

A freshman year that will long be remembered with the COVID pandemic, the 130 members of the Creston High School class of 2023 said their farewells Sunday during commencement.

Four of the 12 class valedictorians reflected on the past four years, or more, of their school life as they transition into the next chapter. The COVID pandemic was just one of the influences of society they experienced during high school.

“I am not going to lie, when I was trying to write this speech I turned to one of the greatest technological advancements of our time, my Snapchat AI. I typed in the little chat box and wrote “help me write a funny graduation speech,” Catilin Bruce said. AI, the acronym for artificial intelligence, is the ability of a computer program to learn and produce concepts.

Bruce continued her honesty and transparency.

“Don’t worry teachers, I wasn’t going to copy it, just trying to find some inspiration. I found no luck when it responded back to me saying how a graduation is supposed to be a significant milestone in someone’s life, and it’s important to be ‘respectful and thoughtful’ in my speech. Yeah, OK, whatever that means. So after hours and hours of thinking mixed with some procrastination, and multiple energy drinks later, this is what I came up with.”

Bruce explained the details.

“I believe we are one of the most unique classes to graduate in Creston history. We’ve survived through a pandemic and online classes, and we never really got a true full freshman year, which I see as a good thing because I might not have made it up here if I would’ve had to go another month in Mr. Arnolds U.S. history class. In high school, we’ve all worked, struggled, sacrificed, and dreamed to get to where we are today. But after we’re done here, how do we know what’s next?”

Bruce said the AI program failed to give her advice for her speech. So she switched to a person, music star Taylor Swift.

“When she spoke at a graduation, she had some wise words of advice that I want to share with all of you. As we go on, we will navigate through pressure, life, love, hope, choices, and friendships. Life can be a lot to carry, especially when you try to hold everything at once. You cannot carry all things. You need to decide what is yours to hold, and what to let go. Most times, the good things in life are lighter anyway. One bad situation can outweigh any of life’s simplest joys. You get to decide what your life has room for.”

Kyle Strider, another valedictorian, shared his perspective which probably includes the not to distant future for many of the students.

“We’ve all worked hard to get here, and now we’re going to work even harder to pay off those student loans. But let’s not think about that right now. Let’s think about all the memories we’ve made, the wolf packs we’ve formed and the knowledge we’ve gained inside of school and also in our lives during these four years. And let’s not forget about all the times we’ve procrastinated, the all-nighters we’ve pulled, and the stress we’ve endured. But we made it. We survived. So let’s go out there and conquer the world, one day at a time.”

Riley Wipperman used his moments as more of a stand-up comedy routine cracking a few jokes. But he did remind the audience, and his classmates, of a longstanding piece of advice that still applies.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” he said.

Cade Wurster also was a valedictorian.

“It’s an honor to deliver this speech tonight. High school was a hectic and stressful time for me and filled with many great experiences. I experienced good times along with a handful of disappointments. I wouldn’t be who I am without ‘my boys.’ Shout out to George, Kyle, Noah and Patrick. We all made a choice to work our butts off ever since we were in grade school. We have always been constantly competing to do our best in school for as long as I can remember.”

Wurster said high school showed much about himself.

“I’m not here to tell you of my accomplishments, I’m here to tell you hard work does pay off. I studied hard, played hard and maintained a 4.0. During these past four years I found out that I am my biggest competitor and I learned most about myself from my friends and family. They instilled in me that only I could be held accountable for my actions.”

He continued reminding his class what they are capable.

“We all have a God given right to decide our own fate. It is up to me to give 110% at everything I do. We can all be successful in life. By no means does high school define you or your potential. Only the choices you make define you. High school is just a stepping stone to the path you create.”

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.