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Irish pay tribute to enlisted students

Rosemount High School senior Jessica Kalinowski, who has enlisted in the National Guard, tells her story at last week's military recognition event. RHS administrators hope to make the recognition an annual event.

Rosemount High School has made a tradition of recognizing its student athletes as they commit to compete in college. Last week, RHS recognized students making a different kind of commitment.

With family, friends and recruiters in the audience, RHS paid tribute May 12 to seniors who plan to join the military after they pick up their diplomas in June. Administrators hope to make the ceremony an annual event.

Last week's ceremony started with a chance encounter in the school's hallway. Rod Smith, a retired RHS teacher and a Navy veteran, struck up a conversation with senior Alex Haglund. Haglund had just joined the military, and over the next few days Smith heard about a number of other students who had enlisted. All told he found four RHS seniors headed for the National Guard, four headed for the Marine Corps and seven headed for either the Army or the Army Reserve.

The more he thought about it, the more Smith believed those students deserved some kind of recognition. He approached school administrators, and the event grew from there.

Last week the students stood in front of family and friends and explained why they had chosen to enlist. A number of recruiters showed up, as did local veterans and a representative from the 34th Red Bull Infantry, stationed in Rosemount. Smith made an Irish drum with the names of each student, and the students slapped it as they passed it on.

"We got a number of positive comments from people," Smith said. "It was a little exhausting for my part, but the reward was unbelievable. It was a positive thing for Rosemount High School and I know it made the kids feel good."

RHS principal John Wollersheim said 4 percent of RHS seniors enlist in the military. Nationwide about 1 percent of high school students enlist.

Wollersheim hopes to make the recognition an annual event.

"I think it's one of the biggest commitments you can make as someone leaving high school," Wollersheim said. "I thank those who have already served and I thank those students for serving."