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Out in Leftfield column: Community counsel

Greg Peters

By Greg Peters 

When I was a high school senior, my dad wrote a letter telling me the story of one man's life. It was a lesson in perseverance. It was about a man born into poverty. His fiancé died and he had a nervous breakdown. This same man failed twice in business and lost eight political elections in 30 years, but he did one thing extremely well; he persevered. This man's name was Abraham Lincoln.

I still have the letter from my dad and I still read it when I think a task is too daunting or something can't be done. I read it not only as a perseverance reminder, but it also actuates the people I love, my friends and family, always have my back and I have theirs. It's taken me almost 30 years to figure it out, but the true life lesson in my dad's letter is to persevere through the tough times because life's actual treasures are the people you meet and the relationships you build.

I wanted to pass along some advice to our 2018 graduating River Falls High School seniors, but I'm a firm believer in "two heads (or 20) are better than one," so I enlisted an "advice-army" of River Falls residents to help with the task. They were chosen for their accomplishments in education and community endeavors (and they responded, which is a key factor). This is collective community counsel from a wide array of life's experiences for our graduating class of 2018. Hopefully, the recent graduates won't put this column in the same category as a long handwritten graduation card with no money in it from a deranged great-uncle.

Wells Fargo Business Analyst Tim Burns: "I think the Beatles said it best, 'You'll get by with a little help from your friends.' So keep your friendships and go find new ones, too!"

RFHS Principal Kit Luedtke: "Always be kind, work hard in life, and make sure the job you earn in the world matches with what you love."

River Falls City Administrator Scot Simpson: "Life is a group project."

UWRF Chancellor Dean Van Galen: "Be open to new ideas, cultures, and opportunities. Keep learning through formal education and daily curiosity. Remain grateful for family, friends, and the gift of life. Give back to causes and organizations that are meaningful to you."

Mike Kealy, teacher, realtor, sports broadcaster: "Only a fool trips on what is behind him."

Director of River Falls Municipal Utilities Kevin Westhuis: "Reflect on what you want in life and be bold by actually writing down your goals on a piece of paper. Put this paper in a place you'll see every day. You will be amazed at the power of writing down your goals. You can't get there if you don't know where you're going."

WESTconsin Credit Union Senior Vice-President Russ Blasius: "Focus more on who you become, rather than what you become."

Early Childhood Special Education Director in Hastings Katie Mikla: "Keep an open mind. Be flexible. Stay optimistic. Doing so will help you succeed through all the phases of your life."

Ryan Bishop, teacher and RFHS Varsity Head Baseball Coach: "The game is just beginning, your biggest at-bats are yet to come. Hang in there on the curve balls and knock the fast balls out of the park. Life is sure to give you plenty of both."

Sara Kealy, teacher and RFHS Varsity Head Volleyball Coach: "Give more than is expected in all that you do. Don't be comfortable with giving the bare minimum."

Brian Manion, Vice-President of Westconsin Credit Union River Falls Branch: "Keep moving forward. You are going to experience bumps in the road but all those experiences will make you a better individual."

Caroline Henk, teacher at Rocky Branch Elementary: "Be true to yourself. Pursue your passions, not what others want for you. There is a great big wonderful world out there, don't be afraid to explore it, meet new people, and be open to other ideas whether or not you agree with them."

Cedric Ellingson, former River Falls' Citizen of the Year and social media political activist: "Start worrying about contributing once you have built yourself up enough to have something to contribute. It's also a good idea to wear your seat belt."

CHS Executive Torrey Prigge: "John Wooden said it best, 'listen if you want to be heard and never make excuses because your friends don't need them and your foes won't believe them."

Fred Barr, RFHS Assistant Volleyball Coach, Mentor, Property Appraiser: "Keep a journal whether it's once a week or once a month. You'll never regret the 5 minutes you spent giving you a lifetime of memories. Let the people that have helped and influenced you, know it, and let them know how you're doing. It will make them feel good and you may need their help again. One day you will be that person and it will give you joy."

David Crail, teacher and RFHS Varsity Head Football Coach: "WHAT you decide to do in life will never be as impactful or as important as HOW you decide to go through life. By choosing to show people love, compassion, and empathy your impact will be far more outreaching than any other singular decision you could make."

Chris Blasius, CEO River Falls Chamber of Commerce: "Most days you will spend more hours working than at home, so be sure to find a career that aligns with your true passion; even if you're not exactly sure what that is right away."

Janet Burns, UWRF Foundation: "You're going to meet many people that are as smart, or smarter, than you. Make sure you don't meet many that out-work you."

Diane Barr, Travelers Insurance Executive: "The 'little things' matter. They cost little to do, but often cost a lot if you fail to do them. It doesn't cost a lot to call your mom, thank a co-worker, share a sincere compliment, be there for a friend, make someone laugh, or hold the door for someone, but NOT doing those little things, in the long run, could cost you valuable relationships."

Lori Moe, Music Teacher at Meyer Middle School (she is retiring this year!): "Be yourself! There is such beauty in each individual person. Own your individuality and, at the same time, take time to appreciate what each person in your day has to offer."

To wrap up this "collective community counsel" for our 2018 RFHS graduates, I especially try to adhere to all three of the following. Two are from the same person, Mother Teresa, who said, "If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway."

Mother Teresa also said, "The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway."

We started with a Beatles' quote from Tim Burns and we'll finish it with one as well, "And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make."

A heartfelt "congratulations" to the entire Class of 2018. Your hometown wishes you all the best!