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As we wrap up the school year, there are a number of events recognizing the accomplishments of students—in particular the work of the members of the senior class.  Last week offered one of the recognition events—the Students of Excellence gathering at the River’s Edge Convention Center. 

During the month of May many other recognition events will take place including the Dollars for Scholars Senior Breakfast, the senior awards night at the high school, and many recognition events in conjunction with classes and activities.  Recognition, for seniors, culminates with graduation.

I would like to take time to share about the Students of Excellence program.  The program is coordinated, in the ROCORI School District by counselors Craig Lieser and Jen Illies.  Four from the senior class students and their parents are offered opportunity to attend the Students of Excellence program.



On Wednesday, April 30, a gathering of area high school seniors was held by Resource Training and Solutions.  The program, at the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center, honored the top students in Central Minnesota’s high schools.  This was the 27th annual recognition ceremony.

ROCORI students honored at the event included Heather Buerman, Kristin Mehr, Kayla Orbeck and Katelyn Parsons.  There were 150 seniors from 38 different high schools recognized at the Students of Excellence program.

These students rank very high in the class of 2014 and, as Resource Executive Director Rob Cavanna explained, “academic achievement is the demonstrated ability to perform, achieve and/or excel in scholastic activities.  Academic excellence has been identified with achieving high grades and superior performance.”

The theme of the evening, in addition to recognition of academic accomplishments, was development of the full person and the value of service.  Dr. Cavanna added these remarks, “Academic excellence, however, is more than just making good grades.  It is the maximum development of one’s intellectual capacities and skills in the service of others.  Our region’s honorees will have numerous opportunities in their lifetime to exercise servant leadership in whatever they may do.”

Dr. Julia Espe of Princeton served as the presiding superintendent at the event.  

The keynote address was offered by Bob Upgren.  His presentation was titled, “Igniting a Purpose—How to Find Your True Calling in Life.”  Mr. Upgren’s presentation came in two parts—comments and art. 

The first part of the keynote offered some encouragement and comments to the audience.  Bob encouraged students, much like Dr. Cavanna, to look beyond the academic work they have accomplished to develop an attitude of service.  Helping others with the skills, talents, and interests we each possess provides fulfillment and enriches life. 

Mr. Upgren offered several stories and examples from his experiences to illustrate the point.  His most moving story focused on his first job—being dressed in a bear suit serving patients in a hospital.  Being available to patients to listen, simply being present at difficult times, and offering hope to others made the “job” enjoyable and worthwhile.

The second part of his keynote address was a chalk drawing he created while the audience listened to several musical selections.  The drawing, done on a black sheet with very brilliant chalk, turned a blank canvass into a lighthouse scene with an eagle and American flag “waving” over the scene.  As the drawing was finished, the music changed to Lee Greenwood’s song, God Bless the USA.  The art and music provided a powerful message.

Each of the students honored at the program received a certificate from Governor Dayton and a plaque recognizing them as Students of Excellence.