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By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — The Elk Mound High School Class of 2020 salutatorian is Caitlyn Bodenburg, daughter of Carrie Bodenburg of Eau Claire and Boyd Bodenburg of Elk Mound.
For Caitlyn, being named as the salutatorian of her graduating class has shown the value of keeping her focus and doing her best.
“To me, being the salutatorian shows that all my hard work in keeping up my straight A’s has paid off. I always tried to study to the best of my ability and gave it my all in every single project that I did, so I’m grateful to receive this honor after everything I did. I also feel thankful that I can represent our class and celebrate our collective achievement of graduating, even with these tough times,” she said.
In this unprecedented year of the COVID-19 pandemic, when public and private schools in Wisconsin have been closed since March 19, and high schools are unable to hold their traditional graduation ceremonies because of limitations on mass gatherings to help slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus, Caitlyn has this message for her fellow classmates:
“As we struggle to bring some closure to the school year of 2020, it’s been comforting to know that I’m not in this alone—that we’re in this together. If we’ve learned anything in this pandemic, it’s okay not to be certain. Just remember, how you’re feeling at a given moment doesn’t mean that’s how you’ll feel forever. Use your energy and focus to identify things you have control over, and cope with the things you can’t. Regardless of our future paths, we have so much time to grow, learn new things, and refine our plans as we go. I know this isn’t the way we expected the last few months of our senior year to play out. Even though we haven’t been together for a few months, I’m so happy that we created lasting memories,” she said.
Caitlyn also has this message for future historians trying to find out more about the experiences of the Class of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic:
“The end of my senior year didn’t quite go as I had planned, but I have been trying to make the best of it. I didn’t get to enjoy our prom, last day of school grill-out, graduation ceremony, or all-night party that we had planned for this year. I miss being able to see and talk to my friends everyday, ask teachers questions face to face, and be able to use the school resources like the shop and the art room. I also missed out on being able to go to the state tournament for Science Olympiad and missed two of my band concerts. Although we are unable to do many things, it has also been nice being able to spend a lot of time with my family and learn from the comfort of my home. I’ve also been keeping in touch with my family that doesn’t live in this area more often than I normally would, which is another plus,” Caitlyn said.
Caitlyn’s most memorable event while she was a student at Elk Mound High School was the band trip to Disney World in 2018.
“We took three charter buses from Elk Mound to Florida, so my friends and I had lots of time to make memories on the 24-plus hour bus rides. We spent five days there exploring the different parks and having a great time. All of my friends being there with me really helped me to make some great memories and get the best experience I possibly could,” she said.
While in high school, Caitlyn’s favorite classes were Calculus and Spanish — especially Pre-Calculus and AP Calculus.
“I enjoy math classes the most because I enjoy working with numbers and problem solving. I learned a lot about how to apply numbers to more complicated situations and studied how functions change,” she said.
One particular Pre-Calculus class will always stay with her.
“I will always remember the one day in Pre-Calc where we covered three lessons in one class period, and everyone was deeply upset about it and vowed to never forget it (10/21…Never Forget),” Caitlyn said.
“I enjoyed Spanish because it was nice to get a deeper understanding of the Spanish language than I ever have before. I also learned how to say many common things in Spanish and how to conjugate Spanish verbs. I also remember taking a field trip to the Festival of Nations with my friends and got to try food from all around the world,” she said.
Caitlyn’s favorite activity at Elk Mound High School was band.
“My favorite activity was being in band because I really enjoy making music and playing my clarinet. It was always rewarding when we would get music for a difficult song, practice it a lot, and then be able to play the song well,” she said.
“I also enjoyed being a part of the marching band and playing our show in five parades each year. Mr. Gerry Murphy’s enthusiasm for music and teaching always made being in band a fun experience,” Caitlyn said.
Other activities included Concert Band (5th to 12th grade); Marching Band (7th to 12th grade); Pep Band (9th to 12th grade); class treasurer her freshman, sophomore and junior year; and student council all four years of high school.
Caitlyn participated in Science Olympiad during her sophomore, junior and senior years as well.
She earned a fourth place medal in Rocks and Minerals when she was a sophomore; sixth, fourth and second place medals in Designer Genes in her senior year; and a third place medal in Disease Detectives in her senior year.
In addition, Caitlyn served as a tutor in her senior year for history and geometry.
She was selected as the Menomonie Optimist Youth of the Month for January of 2020 and was nominated based on her work ethic, attitude in the classroom and for her caring nature toward other students.
And last, although most certainly not least, Caitlyn was a member of the National Honor Society in her junior and senior year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused problems for everyone in planning for the future, and Caitlyn is no exception.
“After I graduate, depending on what the state allows, I would like to get a summer job to start saving up funds for college and my life after,” she said.
As for her educational plans, Caitlyn will be working toward becoming an accountant.
“I have been accepted into Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Accounting program and am excited to start classes in the fall,” she said.
“When I envision my future, I see myself working in an office environment, using my skills in mathematics and problem solving. Math has always come naturally to me, and I enjoy working with numbers, so a major in accounting seems like a perfect fit for me,” Caitlyn said.