First and Last: the final installment of the year long series focuses on the changing future in front of both Bailey and Lars, senior and freshman.
It was at the end of this year’s Back to School Dance when senior Luke Frazier pointed into a crowd of neon and challenged his classmates to “make the most of senior year.”
The chorus of “Lean on Me” began to play and the seniors threw their bodies into each other, merging together as a mass of leaping colors.
Seven months later, the seniors merged together again; however, this time the colors that they wore represented the near future.
On April 29, Minnehaha’s Class of 2016 celebrated National College Decision Day by sporting t-shirts from their selected colleges. The seniors joined together for class photos in the gym and later shared a barbecue lunch out on the front lawn.
That Friday, senior Bailey McKenzie stood in line for the barbecue. With paper plates in hands, she laughed with her classmates, relieved that they had finally and officially finished the college process.
Bailey and her friends posed for group photos together, showing off their new college spirit wear. That day, Bailey was photographed wearing a green t-shirt. It read “Colorado State University.”
After her enjoyable visit in April, Bailey decided to commit to CSU. She states that she is both “excited and ready to move forward” to college.
“I’m really excited for a different learning experience, with a big school that’s not Christian based,” Bailey explained. “I went to public school before high school, but I’m curious to see that shift happen heading into college. It’ll be another opportunity to grow. I’m really looking forward to having new ways to challenge myself, especially in such a beautiful environment, and I think Colorado State University will be the perfect place for this to happen.”
However, until graduation and the day she moves out, Bailey takes advantage of the moments she has left at home, by taking a break from dance for the last semester to work towards the end of senior year, by jumping on every opportunity she can spend with her freshman sister Abigail, and by striking up conversations with her favorite teachers in the hallways.
“There are definitely moments when it hits me like, ‘Wow, I’m never going to have Ridenour again,’ and beyond that, ‘I’m never going to walk past Mr. Hoffner in the hallways again,’” Bailey said about two of her favorite teachers who taught her through her junior and senior year.
With these semi-sentimental realizations increasing as senior year concludes, Bailey recognizes that each moment may be her last memory of a particular person or part of her high school life: that these moments are the last of a year of many ‘lasts’.
So in her green CSU t-shirt, Bailey passed through a line of her classmates towards the barbecue, which commemorated her completion of the college application process. Just a few feet away, freshman Lars Askegaard snuck up to his senior sister Lily and snagged a quick sip from her cup of lemonade.
After a school year of learning the quirks of high school, and specifically Minnehaha, Lars had also strengthened his friendship with Lily through car rides to school and mutual friends.
On that Friday, Lars also had semi-sentimental realizations about his sister’s pending high school graduation.
“We got in the car and were driving and realized it was our last month together in high school,” Lily explained. “I could tell that it registered with him how limited time we had left when he saw me wearing my [St. Olaf] decision day t-shirt. That day at school, he spent every opportunity he had at my side.”
Lily also commented on how previously that week, she had welcomed Lars and his fellow freshmen into the senior high at their church. Later that night, Lily and her fellow seniors celebrated their graduation from senior high. In that one evening in youth group, Lars and Lily shared a moment of intertwined worlds: a world in which they had been a part of for the past year.
“This year our paths were so intertwined, and it’s fun to be apart of the same things,” Lily said. “He’s always been a good listener and interested in my life, my biggest fan. I’m going to miss my buddy a ton next year.”
It was at the Back to School Dance when Lily and Bailey sunk into a sweating heap of neon classmates. Nearly eight months later, these seniors will sink into a crowd of red robes in Bethel University’s Great Hall for commencement.
On June 5, Bailey will grasp her diploma and throw her cap into the air, concluding her year of many ‘lasts’ – and Lars will sit a few rows back, in the cushioned seats between his little sisters and parents and with a program in his lap – imagining the next three years ahead of him and reflecting on his completion of a year of many ‘firsts’.