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Three members of the 317 member Bemidji High School Class of 2011 relax before the processional into the Sanford Center for commencement exercises. From left are Nick Vanasse, Joel Wendorff and Seth Vonasek. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

First Bemidji High School graduation ceremony held at Sanford Center

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As their photos displayed in rotation on the Sanford Center scoreboard, the 317 graduates of the Bemidji High School Class of 2011 processed to the applause of family, friends and faculty Saturday morning.

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Bemidji School District Superintendent James Hess greeted the seniors and advised them to network rather rely solely on individuality.

"If you build strong relationships based on trust and respect, they will take you far," Hess said.

However, he added a warning about being careful about what the students post on the various social network sites.

The student speakers were Eugene Strowbridge, Leighshell Lussier and Jacob Urban.

Strowbridge thanked teachers and families for their encouragement, support and patience. He described the "Lumberjack Pride" he feels when he hears his fellow students' musical and athletic performances. He said another source of pride came from knowning that collectively the Class of 2011 earned more than $1.5 million in scholarships.

Strowbridge also noted the effects of the social network. "We are the first generation that will never be out of touch with our graduating class," he said.

Lussier opened her address in Ojibwe and spoke of her pride in all the graduates. She also expressed gratitude for her years at BHS.

"Bemidji High School gave me the opportunity to chase my dream," she said.

Urban elicited cheers from the seniors when he described them as "The best class in the history of Bemidji High School."

At their 10-year reunion, he said he wants to hear that his classmates succeeded at both wonderful and weird accomplishments.

"Our future right now is a giant whiteboard," Urban said. "And you are the markers."

At the close of the speeches, BHS Principal Brian Stefanich presented the Class of 2011 to the School Board members affirming that the students had met all standards and requirements for their diplomas.

"I am very proud to say they are prepared to enter secondary education or the world of work," Stefanich.

But, he added to the graduates, "You are and will always be a Bemidji Lumberjack."

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