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Two Pine River-Backus moms urge graduates to find their tribe and remember this community

Melanie Lindquist and Stacy Meyers have children who died tragically before graduating with the Class of 2022

PRB parents and faculty members.JPG
As mothers of deceased members of the Pine River-Backus High School Class of 2022, Stacy Meyers, left, and Melanie Lindquist had more than enough reason to feel down during their Friday, May 27, 2022, speech, but instead they found opportunities to laugh and smile.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal
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Melanie Lindquist: Welcome! We’d like to first thank the Pine River-Backus School Board and the PR-B graduating Class of 2022 for having us here tonight. What an honor! My name is Melanie Lindquist and I am the French teacher at the high school. I am also Evan's mom.

Stacy Meyers: I am Stacy Meyers. I am Rausie’s mom.

And to give you a little introduction of who we are and where we first met: Our kids were in karate together at the ages of 4 and 5. We lived in different communities, and I only knew Melanie taught at the school where I graduated - these very halls of Pine River-Backus.

Rausie and Evan were members of this graduating class, but at different times, and never together. They were friends first, before they even entered school. So our paths crossed for the first time many moons ago, and then again when Melanie became Rausie’s French teacher in ninth grade.

Melanie: Both of us have a child who is supposed to be sitting out there with you - but while we acknowledge that, we don’t want what we say tonight to be about us and what “should have been.” We want to talk about what can and will be for YOU.

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PR-B grads standing for the audience
The Friday, May 27, 2022, graduation ceremony at Pine River-Backus Shool was the second time graduates were put into chairs close to the audience. Here, half of the class is receiving an ovation from the crowd.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Stacy: So where do we begin? We can stand up here and tell you that you have just conquered Mount Everest, but that’s not true. Mount Everest is yet to come. We could also give you the cliche speech of conquering the world, doing great things and accomplishing anything and everything you put your minds to.

But the reality is we don’t need to tell you any of that cliche, boring stuff about your futures. And let’s be real - if you guys keep it up, you’ll do just fine! You have already done great things and know what it takes. I mean, we do have an Eagle Scout and state wrestling champ gracing our presence. If those were easy tasks, we'd have dozens of you.

Melanie: We also want to acknowledge the absolute heartbreak that this class has also endured. Some of you have lost parents. Others have lost siblings. You have lost classmates in tragic accidents. And these are only the things we KNOW about. Many, if not all of you, have endured trials that were not apparent on the outside.

Pine River-Backus High School Principal Chris Halverson
In his speech to the 2022 Pine River-Backus graduating class, High School Principal Chris Halverson tasked them with responsibilities going forward to achieve their own dreams and foster a positive future on Friday, May 27, 2022.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Stacy: You have conquered, and will continue to do so. You have shown perseverance and resilience that is admirable. Your class even made it through online classes during COVID, including band and choir! I think Mr. Kinser and Mrs. Davis would agree to those extreme challenges.

You have made both of us extremely proud not only academically, but all around. I have known some of you dating back to elementary wrestling days of mohawks, and yet some I have only recently had the honor to get to know. But wow, what an amazing, unique, kind, generous, funny group! I am in awe of your “giddy up and go” attitudes.

Keep it up! We are excited to see your journeys unfold.

Melanie: Many of you came onto my radar at a very young age - in preschool or kindergarten. Some of you are my friends’ kids. Some of you were in Evan’s class. In the aftermath of the accident, you were all “Evan’s classmates.” I didn’t know many of you as individuals yet.

Then, ninth grade came and the first crew of you walked through my classroom door. You were older and I started getting to know you for YOU. Your names, personalities and interests started to be more concrete for me and you weren’t just “Evan’s classmates” anymore.

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This senior year, I learned some REALLY interesting things about some of you, such as: Brady Bristow studies his feet when he takes a shower, Chloe Beavers describes herself as “aggressively happy” and then there's Brady Bristow who thinks Emily Hanneken is “toilet paper,” Danny Irish is “la lune" (or the moon) of Cody Deplazes’ life, and then there's Brady Bristow who spins a cow in his mind if he is feeling bored, and according to Liam Peterson, all the senior girls apparently had a “Jake Mills” phase at some point and then there's Brady Bristow ... oh yeah, I have talked enough about you, Brady.

Stacy: Graduating high school is an honor and definitely an accomplishment - BE PROUD! Be very proud! This is a chapter ending, and endings can be sad or perhaps a bit scary. This will be the last time you are all together again. I will promise you that. I was told the same thing just a couple years ago. If I told you it was 24 years ago, those of you with good math skills would be able to figure out my age.

So, today is tomorrow’s memory. Memories are a wonderful place to visit but they can also bring tears. Hopefully happy tears. Today is also the beginning of the rest of your lives. You are about to embark on an incredible journey, a journey that will have twists and turns, highs and lows.

You see, life isn’t a smooth, flat or well paved path. Your journeys will have bumps, turns, hills and valleys - even mountains at times. You are going to be stuck in the mud and perhaps veer off the path altogether.

Melanie: As you move on with your lives, we want you to remember where you came from and how much this community loves you. In order to make this ride a bit more smooth, and handle those bumps and turns, you’ll need to surround yourself with a tribe; a tribe of people you can count on that will be there for you when you are stuck and don't know where to go or what to do.

Stacy: Look around at your classmates sitting next to you. These were your people - your tribe for the last 13 years. They helped you conquer.

Melanie: Look out into the audience - this community was also your tribe. This community has been there for us through the most unimaginable tragedies.

Stacy: They showed up, as strong as an army. For that we are forever grateful. We survived because of them. Not on our own. It would have been easy to curl up and hide when dealt our cards. They saw to it that we were taken care of.

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Find your tribe. Your tribe might be your neighborhood friends in the cul-de-sac. It may be your mommy and me group. It might be your Army Reserve comrades, or perhaps your college dormitory floor. It may be your co-workers.

Whatever it is, find your people. Find your community. Be someone's people. Life is much more enjoyable and doable with people you can count on. Your people will change and morph and that is perfectly normal, and OK.

I would have never guessed one my best friends would be the girl that had a locker three doors down from me right here in these very halls of Pine River-Backus! (Caleb Ruhl - that’s your mom.)

Melanie: Let's check in with our people here. If this applies to you, please stand and remain standing.

  • Which of you students have been at PR-B since kindergarten?
  • Are there any community members out there who graduated from Pine River High School (Go, Tigers!), Backus High School (Go, Wolverines!) or Pine River-Backus High School (Go, Tigers!)?
  • Which of you students have been in an activity at PR-B like theater, speech, sports, band or choir, or other activities like Knowledge Bowl, Student Council or National Honor Society?
  • How many in the audience have ever watched or attended a sporting event, concert or other school activity?
  • Who has been in a community activity like Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, 4-H or volunteered somewhere in the community?
  • Who has been a part of a church or youth group here?
  • Who in here right now has held a job in our community?
  • Who owns a local business?
  • Who has shopped at a local business?
  • Who received a scholarship last week?
  • Who has been to the Cass County Fair?
  • Who has been to Summerfest or the Parade of Lights?

Stacy: I think that is everyone. You belonged. You had a sense of belonging. You had a tribe to which you belonged. It was much easier to train and practice with a whole football team, right? How about memorizing your speech lines? Easier to do with others versus on your own? How about the Student Council decorating for prom or homecoming? Did one person do it all or was it a group effort?

I think you get the idea. You will be successful and do wonderful things but lean on others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Notice others when in need.

Melanie: Know that this PR-B tribe will always be a part of you, a community in which you belonged (or perhaps will continue to belong). Stacy and I will always hold you near and dear to our hearts. You remembered Rausie and Evan. You brought tears and smiles to our hearts. You gave us a sense of belonging to the class of 2022, when our hearts had big holes.

You included them, and us, in your tribe. So thank you from the bottom of our hearts! You are all amazing, and your parents should be proud! They raised generous, empathetic children. The future is bright!

Stacy: So find your tribe, no matter how big or small. Remember life is precious. Remember your roots. And remember to be humble on your journeys.

Melanie: Congratulations to the class of 2022. We love you.

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