The Stoughton High School Class of 2019 will be taking a variety of paths as they leave Sunday’s graduation ceremonies.
Seniors Cat Smith, Max Pillath and Collin Ace are three whose ambitions demonstrate the diversity of destinations as they enter the next phases of their lives.
One graduate will travel halfway around the globe for a yearlong adventure in Scandinavia, another will begin undergraduate studies in New Jersey and one more will remain in Dane County to advance his career path in the trades.
A year in Norway
Like many graduating seniors, Smith will be off to more schooling this fall. Unlike most of them, though she’ll be speaking Norwegian and sailing around fjords in wooden boats.
Smith is set to spend a year in Norway to attend a folkehøgskole, or “folk high school.” Nestled in the small village of Rissa in central Norway, the Fosen Folk School is about an hour and a half trip from Trondheim.
“Most people only go there for one year,” she said. “Most of the students are between 18 and 25, and there’s a lot of different programs you can sign up for within the school.”
With choices like boat building and farming, Smith decided on the school’s sailing course, where she will spend a year learning how to sail traditional wooden boats along the coast of the country’s Trøndelag region, according the Fosen Folk School website. The “non-academic” focus on trades will allow her to take a break from studying and take a year to “restart” before going to college, she said.
Living in Stoughton and being part of the Stoughton High School Norwegian Dancers were both strong influences in Smith’s decision to go to Norway. With a focus on traditional folk dancing, the group “performs at elementary schools and community events and then our big performances obviously are during Syttende Mai for the Stoughton community,” she said.
Smith was also on the SHS dance team for four years and said she made sure to take classes that were both interesting and challenging. While saying she enjoyed high school, Smith said that she is excited for graduation.
“Four years is a lot of high school and I’m ready to move on and definitely have that independence,” she said.
For Pillath, his four years of high school “zipped by pretty quick,” and now he’s ready to enter the workplace, with a bright future ahead of him.
Due to his experience in the SHS Youth Apprenticeship program, he’s already got an apprenticeship in the skilled trades lined up with Madison-based Hill Electric, where he will train with professionals to become an electrician.
“We have it set in stone right now,” he said. “I’m really excited, because I like making money and you don’t make a whole lot of money when you’re in high school unless you’re only there for half the day or even less.”
Pillath spent this year working in his youth apprenticeship, and said throughout his high school career, he also took a lot of hands-on classes, such as woods and welding.
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “I did pretty well.”
Collin Ace, meanwhile, is jumping right into college coursework, though he is still pondering which field he wants to go into.
This fall, he’ll attend the Rutgers University-New Brunswick School of Arts and Sciences, where he’s planning to go into chemistry, though he’s explored other options such as English. He said his experience at Stoughton High School has been great for him, and has helped develop many interests.
“It’s helped me explore a lot of different things that maybe I don’t necessarily want to go into, but are really fun and interesting things that I liked to be a part of,” Ace said.
Some of these explorations include the SHS Quiz Bowl team, where he qualified for nationals twice, the school newspaper, where he served as the editor-in-chief, and theater, where he has been an actor, stage crew member and a member of the pit orchestra.
Ace highlighted the German American Partnership Program as one of his favorite high school experiences, through which he took an exchange trip to Germany for three weeks in the summer of 2017. Exploring historical locations in Bavaria, such as Munich, and visiting Berlin before spending two weeks with his exchange partner’s family in the city of Greven, Ace “did the daily life of the German teenager,” before returning home.
“As fun as high school has been, I think it’s really time for all of us to move on and I think it’s a really great thing that we can take everything we’ve had in high school, everything we’ve learned and experienced and go out into the world on our own and have a little bit more independence,” Ace said.