It's graduation season, when parents, educators and dignitaries turn to dispensing life lessons and pearls of wisdom. But we decided to give four Twin Cities graduating seniors a chance to talk about life from an 18-year-old's vantage point. We asked them about their best high school memories, fears, aspirations, the best advice from their parents and the amount of money they think they'll be making when they're 30.

Most of the questions produced ready answers, but two stumped nearly all of them. No one wanted to guess their income at age 30. "It's hard to even think about that in this economy," said Sam Bristlin of St. Louis Park. And the question that produced the awkward silence? "What's the best advice your parents gave you?" Apparently, parents, there's still time to exert some influence.

Here's a snapshot of the seniors' high school experiences -- one who's college-bound, one enlisting in the Marines, one considering community college, and one who already has his own business.


Como Park Senior High, St. Paul

Ever since Perkins-Goodrie was a freshman, she's thought about enlisting in the Marine Corps. Graduating with a rank of cadet major, the third highest officer in Como Park High's JROTC, she made her final decision to enlist last year, with her parents' permission. She'll be going to boot camp at Parris Island, S.C.

Advice you would give underclassmen: Senior year is crunch time. Don't drop your pack. Make sure it all counts.

What do you wish you had done as a kid? I wish I'd been more physically active. I've always been a good weight, but I wasn't as fast or strong as others. I had to spend all of high school catching up.

Favorite teacher: Sgt. Maj. [Dennis] Rehbein. He was my first real role model, encouraging and humble. He knows when to be a hard leader and when to be a papa bear and take your hand and lead you through what you need to do.

What are you most looking forward to? Finishing boot camp. When you walk across the parade deck and get your emblem, you have earned the title of United States Marine. It gives me goose bumps. It's a title you'll have for the rest of your life. It shows you're aspiring to greatness.

Historic event: 9/11. I was young when it happened, but it's still a wake-up call for Americans.

Laura Modl

Cretin-Derham Hall, St. Paul

A motivated student who's involved in sports, student council and social causes (child welfare, developmentally disabled students), Modl will attend the University of Minnesota this fall.

Advice you would give underclassmen: Find your niche by getting involved in a lot of activities. Don't be friends with people who can't accept you for who you really are.

Best experience in high school: A trip to the United Nations in 2010. We were there on the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of a Child. Just being in the General Assembly room gave me hope for a sense of cooperation in the world and issues that kids in the world face.

What are you most looking forward to as an adult? Getting my own car. Most of my friends already have one, but my mom is stingy about letting me even borrow hers. I'm tired of depending on friends for rides.

What still scares you? It's every woman's fear -- being attacked walking alone in the dark.

What change would you like to see in your community? I wish more people could see how other people live. I saw kids living in church basements. It's not the same seeing it in person.


Apple Valley High School, Apple Valley

Early in high school, Craig was asked to join the Advancement Via Individual Determination program for high-potential students from economically challenged homes. "It was a huge eye-opener for him," said adviser Joe Wycoff. Craig plans to attend Normandale Community College in Bloomington this fall.

Your best high school memory? Getting an 85 on an AP [advanced placement] math test. It wasn't until my senior year that school became a top priority, and I realized I needed to get my grades up. I took a hard class (statistics) to challenge myself. I studied so hard, and I'm not a good student. The score made me feel smart in something that I will use after high school.

Advice would you give underclassmen: Don't worry so much about your image. When I quit worrying so much about what people thought of me, I could get my homework done easier.

Best experience in high school: Being named homecoming king in my sophomore year. Even today I worry what people think about me, but on that day I felt 100 percent acceptance. There was a stadium of people clapping for me.

Worst experience in high school: Getting a low ACT score that didn't qualify me to get into most four-year colleges. I always heard that if you work hard enough, your dream will come true. I learned that's not true in all cases. I studied hard for three months and when I got my score, it sent the world crashing down around me. At first, I thought community college was a joke, but then I changed.

Best advice your parents gave you? You can't help someone unless they want to help themselves. I tried to convince a friend of mine not to get into a fight, but all he cared about was his image as a top dog. My mom made me realize that not everyone wants help.

Sam Bristlin

St. Louis Park High School, St. Louis Park

Described as a "strong student when he applies himself" by teacher Kara Mueller, Bristlin didn't always have school as a high priority. He has had to work to help his family since he was 16. In the past 18 months, Bristlin has formed his own business, GreenCo Roofing and Remodeling, which takes up as many as 40 hours a week, including weekends. He plans to attend St. Thomas University next spring after he finds someone to run his business while he's in school.

What do you wish you had done as a kid? Take school seriously. I was advised to take it easy in school to focus on a business. I missed out on school experiences because I was working a lot.

Favorite teacher: Mrs. Mueller. She really likes her job and she always made it clear that you'd better do a job you like. Why get up every day and be miserable? I took that to heart and I'm doing what I want. I like being self-employed.

Worst experience in high school: The drama in high school. A lot of kids want to create drama for things that don't really matter. Like being mean to another kid because he's wearing a brand of shoes that aren't Nikes or Adidas.

What are you looking forward to? Independence, getting to make my own decisions.

What scares you? Independence. What if you mess up?

What change would you like to see? A bigger sense of community. We live in a great country and they take it for granted. People are unhappy with their situation -- people who have a lot going for themselves. It's never enough. There should be more help for people who need it.

What historic event marked your teen years? The so-called recession. I've seen people lose jobs, including people in my family. It's a whole different way of living.

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633 or