2017-06-08 / Life in Leelanau

Astronaut to Class of 2017: ‘You can be anything you want to be’

LELAND
—Story by Amy Hubbell


GERARDO VASQUEZ smiles proudly while Principal Charlie Gann announced his list of accomplishments during his high school career. GERARDO VASQUEZ smiles proudly while Principal Charlie Gann announced his list of accomplishments during his high school career. Family and friends of Leland Public School’s Class of 2017 gathered Friday in the school gymnasium to give them a great commencement send-off.

Thirty seniors donned gowns and marched into the gymnasium for the last time as a class to look back on where they’ve been and look forward to the next phases of their lives.

Jerry Linenger, an astronaut who spent five months on the Soviet space station Mir, was the featured guest speaker.

“Every person here is a miracle,” said Linenger, who also flew missions on Discovery and Atlantis space shuttles. “You can be anything you want to be.”

Linenger grew up in east Detroit and as a youngster always dreamed of becoming an astronaut. He talked about his journey to space, which included the Naval Academy and medical school.


LELAND SCHOOL Board member Don McMullen hugs his daughter, Jennifer, after presenting her diploma. LELAND SCHOOL Board member Don McMullen hugs his daughter, Jennifer, after presenting her diploma. He also acknowledged the star power of the Class of 2017 which included members who shone brightly on the stage, athletic field and in robotics.

Linenger encouraged them to continue to aspire for great things.”There’s something in nature that causes us to slack off after a great accomplishment,” he said. “My final assignment for you is to set a 10-year goal of where you want to be.

“You’re bound to be successful along the way.”

For the first time, Leland Public School had four valedictorians — all with 4.0 GPAs. Julie Bardenhagen, Kira Metcalf, Roger Crimmins and Jennifer McMullen.

They shared the microphone and reflected on their growth at Leland Public School.


ASTRONAUT JERRY Linenger, the featured speaker at the Leland High School graduation, said everyone is a miracle and encouraged Comet graduates to reach for the stars. ASTRONAUT JERRY Linenger, the featured speaker at the Leland High School graduation, said everyone is a miracle and encouraged Comet graduates to reach for the stars. “Our teachers turned work into play,” Crimmins said. “We worked hard and played hard.”

Metcalf spoke of the relationships built throughout the K-12 school.

“Be kinder than you need to be,” she said.

The seniors also offered an homage to the late Ed Wodek, a longtime civics teacher who, was the group’s class advisor before falling ill with cancer.

“He was dedicated 100 percent to the end,” McMullen said.

Wodek died in February 2016.

Lenore and Bob Hagstrom of Leland have been to many a Leland School graduation ceremony. They were in the audience Friday to witness their granddaughter, Natalie Hagstrom, receive her diploma.

“We used to go to all of the graduations. But not so many anymore,” Lenore said. “I graduated from here. Our picture is still up in the hallway.”

Return to top