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Seniors foil 'Star Wars' villain at Shanley graduation

Some people won't forget Sunday's Shanley High School graduation ceremonies for a long time. Not with Darth Vader stalking into the school gym at his menacing best, threatening to halt graduation and challenging the graduates to a game of...

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Some people won't forget Sunday's Shanley High School graduation ceremonies for a long time.

Not with Darth Vader stalking into the school gym at his menacing best, threatening to halt graduation and challenging the graduates to a game of hackisack and a light saber duel.

The students, of course, won and routed everyone's favorite "Star Wars" movie villain.

The demonstration was part of Shanley religion teacher Michael Hagstrom's commencement address.

He said he doesn't remember who gave the commencement address when he graduated in 1977. Nor does he remember the speaker's message. But the music, drama and characters in "Star Wars," which opened that summer, make it easy to remember, he said.

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"Star Wars," with its Jedi Knights as defenders of peace and justice and an all-powerful force, is similar to the Christian religion, he said. However, the real drama is the gap between who people are and who they ought to be, and the real hero and source of Christians' power is Jesus Christ, he said.

Cathy Schwinden, one of two senior class advisers, then recounted the many memories created in the gym in the years since Shanley opened 51 years ago.

The 55 students in the class of 2002 are the last to graduate from the school on Fargo's north side. A new Shanley is being built on 25th Street and 56th Avenue South.

In addition to being the site of 51 graduations, the gym held games, pep rallies, physical education classes, dances, concerts, auctions and other fund-raising events. Schwinden said the record number of pizzas volunteers made in a day there is a little more than 30,000.

"This place is full of Shanley spirit," she said.

The gym also has been a spiritual center, according to Schwinden.

"This is a sacred place," she said.

Senior class secretary and treasurer Ashley Radcliffe said that at Shanley, the teachers were more than instructors; they were mentors and friends who cared about the students as though the kids were their own children.

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Graduate Jon Blixt had mixed emotions about graduation.

"It feels great," he said.

He added that he also was sad to see his friends go their separate ways and to leave a building with so much character.

Other students were less nostalgic about their old school.

"I just want to be through school, because it's falling apart," senior Jessica Bontjes said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ellen Crawford at (701) 241-5523

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