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70 graduate from ELC HS

Distinguished alumnus Lt. Justin Lewis, class of 1999, advised students to never give up on themselves

May 22, 2019
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

Estherville Lincoln Central honored 70 graduates at its ceremonies Sunday. That's 71 if you count Lincoln Coakley, a member of the class who has been recovering from a June 25, 2018 automobile accident that first left him in a coma. In their messages to the class, Salutatorian Emily Herum and Valedictorian Chloe Bauler honored Lincoln and said one good thing that came out of the accident was that it brought their class together.

Herum said, "We never gave up on him, just as he never gave up on anythingLincoln is the kind of kid whom he likes everyone and everyone likes him."

The front row of graduates held an empty chair between Brooke Clarke and Josie Condon where Coakley would have sat for the ceremony, had he been able to attend. Coakley's mother, Allison, accepted a diploma in Lincoln's place, and the graduates, audience and officials erupted in applause.

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Class president Hollie Sindt also used her welcome speech to honor math teacher Angie Finley, who passed away in October 2018. Sindt described a time she had great trouble with a concept. Mrs. Finley, Sindt said, "sat beside my desk for three days straight going over it with me. While some teachers might just let us fail, Mrs. Finley never gave up on any of us."

Herum also honored Mrs. Finley, saying, "Our high school careers weren't always full of great successes and happiness. We experienced challenges, too. As all of us know, in the past year we have all faced the devastating loss of one of the best teachers in our district, Mrs. Angie Finley. Our grade came together and we did some very touching things."

Herum shared her positive opinion of the class. "We are there for each other through the good times and the bad, and I'm proud to be part of the class of 2019."

Bauler said, "One of my favorite things about this graduating class is how close we all are. We're like a family. We all take care of each other, accept one another for who we are, give continued support for everything we do."

Lt. Justin Lewis from ELC's class of 1999 was chosen as the distinguished alumnus. He awarded the ELC Foundation Scholarship to Juan Carlos Diaz, Jr. He invited the graduates to the family of ELC alumni that includes his siblings and other family members, all of whom forged exceptional paths after graduating.

Lewis dropped out of college more than once before joining the U.S. Coast Guard. "It was a choice I made, and I haven't looked back at all," Lewis said. Lewis finished his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from South Dakota State University ten years after graduating from ELC, and is on track to complete his Master of Engineering in Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University in May, 2020. He has completed numerous certifications and qualifications during his Coast Guard service.

He shared a harrowing story of navigating the Caribbean to find a cruise ship captain who was feared to have fallen overboard. After calculating coordinates and heading out with a helicopter crew, the crew received additional information that led them to alter their search coordinates, only Lt. Lewis had not entered the adjusted coordinates. The crew ultimately rescued the cruise ship captain.

"Sometimes your choices drive an outcome, and sometimes dumb luck happens, or doesn't happen," Lewis said.

"It's still important to use your skills, background, education, intelligence, and knowledge to make the decision and pursue it," Lewis said.

The class colors are black and red. The class flower is a white rose. The class motto is a quote from poet Maya Angelou: "My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style."



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