South Dakota's top high school students should celebrate success and share their accomplishments with individuals who helped them excel, Gov. Mike Rounds told a room full of graduating seniors Monday, April 26, in Pierre.
The governor's comments came during the 20th Annual Academic Excellence Recognition Banquet, a celebration honoring the state's highest achieving high school graduates. Approximately 220 students were invited to attend the event, which was hosted by Associated School Boards of South Dakota (ASBSD) and sponsored by the South Dakota Community Foundation and Citibank.
"You can be very proud of what you've accomplished," the governor said. "You are truly South Dakota's best and brightest."
After praising the strength of their character and congratulating seniors for working hard, Gov. Rounds challenged students to extend gratitude to family members and teachers who helped guide and protect them. He also asked the soon-to-be graduates to appreciate taxpayers who fund public schools and members of the military who keep the country safe.
"You live in the greatest country in the world," the governor said. "Don't forget to say thank you."
For a portion of his address, the governor focused on "selling" South Dakota as a place ripe with exciting job prospects and an unrivaled quality of life.
"We want you to be part of South Dakota's future," the governor said, calling on students to seek higher education and later establish "roots" by working and raising a family in the state.
South Dakota has fresh opportunities in science, technology, healthcare, financial services and agriculture, the governor said. He also plugged working for the state's smaller businesses, which he suggested provide young people with a greater opportunity to advance in their careers.
Since 1990, ASBSD has asked schools to identify the top 1 percent of the state's highest achieving students to be recognized the Academic Excellence Recognition Banquet. Schools are encouraged to choose students based on academic criteria, such as grade-point average and scores on college readiness tests. Parents and high school principals are invited to accompany each student to share in the celebration. This year, approximately 525 students, parents and educators attended the event.
ASBSD President Susan Humiston, a school board member from Edgemont, served as master of ceremonies. She told the students she felt privileged to help them celebrate their accomplishments.
"It is truly awe-inspiring to be part of this occasion," Humiston said. "I speak for the whole state in saying how proud we are of you and what you have achieved."
ASBSD is a private, non-profit association representing more than 850 South Dakota school board members, the 154 school districts they govern and the students they serve. The organization's mission is to advance public education by empowering local school board leaders and advocating for a thriving public education system.