MANSON - When Melissa Johnson walked across the stage Sunday afternoon, as one of 44 graduates of Manson Northwest Webster high school, she was the third generation from her family to graduate there
Though it was just Manson high school back then, the high school gym is still the same as where her mother Janet Johnson graduated back in the class of '74. Janet's parents both graduated from Manson also.
The only thing that really had changed about the ceremony is that back then, the parents sat in the bleachers instead of the floor in folding chairs, she said.
Janet Johnson shows a few tears of joy as her daughter Melissa Johnson receives her diploma. Janet Johnson graduated in this same gym in the class of 1974.
It was also a family affair for the three board members handing out diplomas in the ceremony. Each had a child in the graduating class.
"It's the best part of being on the board, handing the diploma to your own child," said Duane Paterson. "That's the payoff."
When his daughter Callie Paterson's turn came in the ceremony, there was plenty of hugging on the stage.
Duane Paterson graduated from Northwest Webster high school in 1980, in the building that's now the MNW elementary school.
"It's pretty much the same. The kids are wanting to get it over and the parents are glad for them," he said.
Melissa Johnson agreed that it was exciting to be done. She will major in social science education and global studies at the University of Northern Iowa.
"Last year I took a history class online and it was probably the best teacher I've ever had in my life. I learned a lot," Melissa Johnson said. "It helped me decide exactly what I wanted to do."
She's done speech contest all four years.
"When we did choral reading this year, we did 'Little Red Riding Hood.' We got to go to all state, and that was probably one of the greatest groups in the world. I loved everyone in there," she said.
Emma Johnson - not related to Melissa - also had great memories of her years in band and as a wrestling cheerleader.
"I'll miss wrestling cheerleading because I made a lot of friends through that," Emma Johnson said. "It was a good time."
The three graduating speakers were David Robideau, Jordan Schreier and Jordan Ukena. They told their classmates to cherish their high school memories, enjoy every moment, and push themselves to be daring.
"I've learned some lessons in high school. Number one, do not leave keys to your new car in the ignition in the parking lot. If you do, do not be surprised if the police call you and say your new car is now upside-down in a ditch," Schreier said.
"These 12 years have been the longest 12 years of my 18-year-old life," Ukena said.
She recalled how in every grade, she seemed to be counting down the hours until summer.
"I love summer, but it's kind of scary to think we're all wishing our time away," she said.
Take your time, she advised, but make every second count.
Robideau said he changed his speech because the one he wanted to give may have made people uncomfortable. Instead, he extolled the need for discomfort.
The real world "is going to make you uncomfortable, it's going to make you angry, it's going to make you sad, and there's probably not anything you can do about it," Robedeau said.
Though there's a natural instinct to always stay in one's comfort zone, "Ignore that instinct," he said. "Keep a notebook of your bad ideas. Go somewhere that speaks another language. Wear your shoes on the wrong feet. Eat something with its eyeballs still attached.
"It's out of discomfort that all of the worlds greatest ideas and art and politics and inventions and human accomplishments are born."