Pequot Lakes High School held a rare early graduation for one of its students Thursday, April 1, so he could head to basic training while the rest of his classmates finish their final year.
Chase Decker begins training with the Army National Guard on April 13. When the school administration learned of his upcoming training, they pulled out all the stops to allow him to graduate early.
In front of a small crowd gathered in the athletic center gym April 1, High School Principal Aaron Nelson announced that Decker - wearing his Patriot blue cap and gown - had met all graduation requirements and presented him with his diploma and wishes for good fortune in the future.
"He's been kind of a mascot around here for a long time," Nelson said in an interview. "He's a Pequot Patriot through and through. He's been looking for an opportunity to get into the military. A program became available for the National Guard and that program starts in mid-April. They wanted to fast-track his graduation so we made the arrangements."
"He's been looking for an opportunity to get into the military. A program became available for the National Guard and that program starts in mid-April. They wanted to fast-track his graduation so we made the arrangements."
— High School Principal, Aaron Nelson
This is an extremely rare occurrence.
"I've had a number of students that do early (military) enrollment," Nelson said. "They go between their junior year and senior year for basic and then go back again after their senior year to wrap up training and go into it full time. This is an unusual circumstance."
Decker appreciated the early graduation event.
“It feels good, obviously, to graduate early," he said in an interview.
On top of that, going into a profession he can have for the rest of his life helping the community is important. Helping other people has always been special to him, he said.
To that end, he'll pursue a career in motor vehicle transportation through the National Guard.
Decker will miss out on many end-of-year activities at school, including playing with the baseball team this spring. Although disappointed about that, he said it's time to move on. He's been trying to get into this program for a couple of years, and is excited that he finally succeeded.
Plus, his football teammates and school staff gathered not only to watch him receive his diploma, but to celebrate afterward with a small reception.
"We wanted to make sure he at least got a chance to enjoy a little bit of a graduation ceremony," Nelson said.
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.