The world is calling ... : Eight ‘22 BVHS seniors opt to graduate at midyear

Jill Meier, Journal editor

The military, work and an early start in college are among the reasons that eight members of Brandon Valley High School’s Class of 2022 have opted to graduate at midyear. The midyear ceremony is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19 in the Performing Arts Center at BVHS. 

This week, the Journal introduces you to the 2022 graduates.


Michael Aaseng

Michael Aaseng’s journey through the Boy Scout program is ultimately what led him to graduate at midyear. 

“Everything I did in Scouts, I thought made the military sound fun because it’s a lot like Scouts,” says Aaseng, who attained the rank of Eagle Scout.

On March 22, Aaseng will leave Brandon for San Antonio, Texas, for basic training in preparation for the U.S. Air Force.

“I wanted to leave for the military a little earlier, so that was a big incentive so I could get done with basic in the spring rather than the summer,” he said.

At this time, he plans to invest 20 years in the Air Force and will pursue a degree in computer science at the same time.

Opportunities afforded students at Brandon Valley High School is piqued his interest in computer science. 

“I’ve met a lot of people (at BVHS) who are into the same field that I am going into. We’ve all built our own computers. There’s quite a few of us at BV who went that route. … We play games online together and we discuss computers together, and that’s where I learned I had an interest in that field,” he said.

Outside the wall of BVHS, Aaseng has proven to be a dedicated employee. He’s held a job at Burger King since he was 14.

“I’ve made my way into management, and that’s something I’ve learned a lot about,” he said.

In his final days of high school, the son of Janet and Lee Aaseng has come to realize that he will miss his classmates – the kids he’s attended school with from the start.

“I’ll have to meet a whole bunch of new people I’ve never met before, and so that will be pretty new for me, because I’ve been in Brandon all of my life,” he said.


Carly Begalka

Carly Begalka signed up for “a bunch of classes through distance learning,” which in turn, allows her to graduate high school early and begin classes at the University of Sioux Falls later this month.

Begalka plans to major in elementary education, a career she said, that’s been her dream career the last years.

“I just love when I get to walk into a classroom and the kids are excited to see me,” she said.

She gained that experience through her internship at Robert Bennis Elementary this semester and working at a daycare.

BVHS, she said, has prepared her well for this next step, offering the right classes and providing the right guidance.

The daughter of Jeff Begalka and Adrian Begalka knows she’s going to miss the daily interactions with the friends she’s made at BVHS since moving here from Brookings on the first day of the fourth quarter of her eighth-grade year.

“So far, it’s been a pretty good transition,” she said. “I will miss it, but I’m excited to be done and excited to get started in college.”


Emma Hallstrom

It’s clear that Emma Hallstrom isn’t afraid of hard work.

This past summer, she worked at her parent’s construction company, 2020 Construction, and it was that experience that expedited her graduation plans. 

“I got a feel for it and I want to continue that,” she said. 

Her on-the-job experience allowed her to learn the use of different power tools, welding, how to hang sheetrock, support beams and interact with customers.

Hallstrom admits to both excitement and fear when she thinks about her future plans.

“I know that I have an idea of what I want to do after high school,” says Al and Beth Hallstrom’s daughter. “It’s easier for me to learn on the job than in the classroom.”


Ashlee Hoff

Ashlee Hoff carried full class loads her freshman, sophomore and junior years, forgoing study halls. And that’s what has allowed Stephanie Hoff and David Hoff’s daughter to depart BVHS at midyear.

‘I just wanted to graduate early. I had all of my credits and wanted to work to get some money,” says Hoff, who works as a CNA at Bethany Meadows and plans to attend Lake Area Tech to become an R.N.

Nursing is proving to be a Hoff family way of life. Her mother and several of her cousins work in the nursing field.

She said BVHS has given her many good friendships that she expects to last a lifetime, and helped to make her a good person.

“I’m probably going to miss the teachers,” she said. “All of the teachers are my favorite; they’re like my friends.”


Sarah Podzimek

Sarah Podzimek did not provide information to the Journal. She is the daughter of Janelle Ketelhut and Joe Podzimek.


Jefferson Rodriguez

When Jefferson Rodiguez arrived at BVHS from Guatemala in January 2019, he couldn’t speak a word of English. And now, two years later, he’s fluent in English and will graduate at midyear.

He came here for better opportunities, and has made the most of his short time here. He credits his ELA teacher, Christine Murtha, for putting in the effort to get him to this point.

“The first year it was hard for me to learn how to speak English because I was speaking in Spanish at home and English in school,” he recalls. 

Being fluent in Spanish, however, has paid dividends in his part-time job at Walmart, where he’s called on to translate when needed. He works about 35 hours per week there.

The past two summers, he put in almost 70 hours a week, working at Walmart on the weekends and for a landscaping company during the weekdays.

Rodriguez plans to continue to work to save money to attend Southeast Technical Institute this fall, where he plans to study business administration and accounting. His goal is to open his own construction company.

Next week, when Rodriguez crosses the stage to accept his diploma, he knows he’ll feel noting but pride.

“Sometimes I feel proud that I’m helping others because others helped me when I came here,” he said.


Hannah Stellinga

Hannah Stellinga’s future plans are to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. In the meantime, though, she plans to work.

“My family has been talking about it (the Air Force) recently. I have two cousins who just joined the Army and that kind of set myself into joining the Air Force, because I see all the benefits they are getting, and I think it’s a good, overall idea,” she said.

Like her classmates, when Stellinga realized she had enough credits to graduate midyear, largely in part to taking some online classes during the summer. She’s thankful for the courses BVHS offered her that will help her take this next step. She cites personal finance as one of those helpful courses.

The daughter of Ryan Stellinga and Lisa Stellinga has played the cello in BV’s orchestra program, along with being involved in art club and choir.

She knows she’s going to miss making music as part of a full orchestra, but looks forward to what the future holds.


Madison Vanden Hoek

Madison Vanden Hoek spent last summer at Army boot camp so she could start college this fall.

Her desire to be a combat medic and a biology teacher will intermix, as she plans to teach and serve as an EMT paramedic.

“I ended up having two different surgeries on my feet, so I was unsure if I was able to enlist, but I got accepted,” she said.

It was after seeing a video of a combat medic that she knew she wanted to do that, too.

But she also wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a teacher.

The opportunity graduate early will allow her pursue both passions. 

The daughter of Jeanette and Rick VandenHoek plans to attend Northern Stte University.


The Brandon Valley Journal


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