Fort Dodge Senior High's valedictorian knew where to look for good advice to share in her graduation speech.
Her three older siblings, Gesila Macek said, have taught her a lot about high school, and about college, and life too.
"Someone great, my brother, once told me, 'School is where you learn things. Life is where you learn about yourself,'" Macek told her class of 209 graduating seniors Sunday afternoon.
Emma Dornath holds her diploma high as she walks out with procession partner Cody Rivers, at left, at the Fort Dodge Senior High commencement.
Joanna Rosen is all smiles as she gets a hug from her fiance Cody Dooley following commencement. The couple are getting married on Thursday.
As cloudy skies threatened, but never delivered rain, Macek said her classmates now have the difficult task of finding out who they really are.
"The greatest foe you will face is yourself. Once you can beat back your fears, who you truly are will shine through," she said.
Class salutatorian Bella Chou said she'd done some internet research on inspirational quotes - but saw that quotes aren't enough.
"This seems like the sort of occasion that calls for grandiose speechifying, a Thanksgiving Dinner-sized serving of cliched inspirational quotes," Chou said. "The Sparknotes summary of what they all seem to be saying is 'Dream big', or 'You only live once'."
Dream big, she said, but remember dreaming is only the first step - also work hard to build foundations under those castles in the air.
"Humanity has spent thousands of years searching for this so-called meaning of life. Last I heard, we're still looking, so remember there's probably more to it than can be summed up in a snazzy one or two-sentence phrase," she said.
Macek said she has taken several college classes already, and will attend Iowa State University next year in hopes of becoming a writer.
Thinking back, perhaps her best high school memories were "When I was in Dodger Senate and leadership club," she said. "They helped me become who I am. Getting the experience to lead, and then take a step back to help someone else lead was an amazing experience."
Cody Rivers said accomplishments in sports stood out from his high school years.
"My greatest memory was blocking the guy from Waterloo West during basketball season," Rivers said.
He said he was excited to graduate, and plans to major in athletic training at Iowa Central Community College.
Cory Alexander had a different kind of highlight.
"It's got to be the halftime show," he said. "At the powderpuff football - the varsity twerk team, all the way."
Superintendent Doug Van Zyl offered the students the same challenge he'd given them at the start of the school year - to make a positive difference for those around them.
"To be the one who would rather gain success by building others up rather than tearing them down," he said. "To be the one who others look up to, because you have the type of character that others put on a pedestal, rather than because you knocked them down."
If you haven't lived up to that standard, Van Zyl said, it's not too late.
"If your heart is full, and you've been doing these things, keep it up," he said. "Our community and our world needs more people like you."