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Envisioning the future

Kaleb Shades graduates from Cannon Falls High School.

What: Cannon Falls High School graduation

When: 7 p.m. June 4 at the high school field house

Graduating class: 99 students

CANNON FALLS - Kaleb Shades talks excitedly about artificial eyeballs that give the person using them the gift of sight.

It's the kind of invention the Cannon Falls High School senior hopes to be part of someday.

"I want to be able to make those new technologies we may have thought impossible when I was younger," said Shades, who will attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison next year to study biomedical engineering. "I can use my strengths I've been given and taught to maybe make someone else's life better."

If anyone is capable of changing lives, it is Shades, said senior class adviser Deb Klegin.

"He's an all-around good person," Klegin said. "He's so down to earth. He is one of the most caring people you will ever meet. He always thinks of others first."

In addition to tutoring younger students, the 18-year-old plays the steel drum, is in jazz band, marching band and symphonic band and is a Knowledge Bowl member and past speech team member.

He is active in National Honor Society, where Klegin says he never turns down an opportunity to do community service. Shades has made it to sections in track and has participated in other sports over the years.

Keeping busy with different activities has been part of Shades' plan since he began his high school career.

"I saw high school as a place where I could figure out who I am and go with it," Shades said. "So I really just tried out everything. Even if I wasn't good at it, at least I tried."

Shades' efforts - his grades are good enough to land him in the top 5 percent of his graduating class - have not gone unnoticed.

High school faculty selected him to receive the school's Hall of Award, presented to a female and male senior student with a challenging academic course load and who is in the top half of their class. Recipients of the award are chosen because they are role models who have the respect of the faculty and their peers.

"He really deserves it," Klegin said.

Shades attributes his high school success to staying true to himself and not sweating the small stuff.

It's a philosophy he plans on bringing with him to college.

"You don't have to be who everyone else thinks you are," he said. "Look at the big picture, at what's really important."