Fergus High holds 117th annual graduation

Charlie Denison

Cedara Zackus receives her diploma from School Board Trustee Monte Weeden as the last graduate of the class of 2017 to walk. Seventy-six students graduated this year.  

Photo by Charlie Denison

Co-valedictorians Jonathan Chen and Kayla Irish delivered speeches for their graduating class Sunday. Chen encouraged his class to “never be passive in life” while Irish focused on life lessons learned since freshman year.
Photo by Charlie Denison

Seventy-six students graduated from Fergus High School Sunday, and every one of them got their moment in the spotlight. FHS Principal Jeff Elliot kicked off the 117th annual commencement exercise, naming each member of the class of 2017 individually and sharing a little story about them, switching from sincere to humorous, teasing students who worked at coffeehouses for not bringing him coffee and making fun of himself along the way.

Co-valedictorian Jonathan Chen was the next to take the stand, encouraging his fellow students to not be passive.

“Lift yourself up, lift others up,” he said. “Never let anyone drag you down or tell you what to believe.”

Chen also encouraged his fellow students to “recognize fallacies, look past the headline and think for ourselves whether what we read is true.”

Fellow valedictorian Kayla Irish took a different approach with her speech. Irish started her speech by sharing how much the class has grown since freshman year.

“Our freshman year, most of our class wrote letters to ourselves we’d open our senior year,” she said. “In these letters, we basically could write whatever we wanted to write: who we were friends with, what our favorite classes were, what we wanted to do with our lives and more. I don’t know about you guys, but I felt a pretty wide range of emotions when I read that letter…that was the first time it really occurred to me how much I’ve learned and changed since I was a freshman.”

Irish then shared life lessons she’s learned since then and were worthy of sharing.

“Many of us learned we are all the reason [band instructor] Mr. Ortman can’t have nice things and that Trevor Ward and Haiden Collins are masters of the “Ice, Ice Baby” song,” Irish said. “…We learned that we rock at hallway decorating and are awful at float decorating…many of us in Mrs. Cirrincione’s sophomore English class learned from Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ that ‘we can always change.’”

Graduation was more than speeches, as the Fergus High School Symphonic Choir performed a haunting rendition of Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” and the Fergus High School band performed a powerful version of John Powell’s “How to Train Your Dragon.”

There was also a slideshow put together by graduate Sheanna Larson, which featured senior pictures and baby pictures alike of each graduate.

And, lastly, there was one more speech – the commencement address – by world history and drama teacher Sandy Armstad. Her speech focused on a simple message: “be here now.”

Advancing technology has its advantages, Armstad said, but it also can make it difficult to stay mindful, which wasn’t easy even before technology. Armstad strongly encourages people to make more of a conscious effort to be present at all times.

“I don’t have a magic formula, but one piece of advice I learned from J.K. Simmons, who delivered last year’s commencement speech at the University of Montana, said, ‘put your doggone cell phones away.’ Put away your distractions, whatever it may be. Put it away for just a few moments a day. Take some breaths. Look around. It can be a pretty amazing thing.”

Graduates received their diplomas graciously and celebrated afterward with the traditional throwing of the caps, followed by the Fergus High School band playing James Ployhar’s “Fanfare and Recessional.”




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