By Veronica Coons 530News –
Great Bend High School Class of 2017 Valedictorian Ashtin Heath inspired her class, painting them as the heroes of today and tomorrow, as the class and community gathered Sunday evening for commencement exercises at Great Bend High School Memorial Stadium.
She noted that though they may not have real superpowers, Great Bend High School has been their super hero training ground. Now, possessing strength, brain power, extraordinary senses and fearlessness, they were ready to transition to heroes for the world.
“No matter where we choose to use our powers, we will always be Great Bend Panthers Class of 2017,” she said.
She was joined in presenting speeches to the class by Salutatorian Madison Otter and Salutatorian Wyatt Rugan. The class, outfitted in their gowns, red for girls and black for boys, and caps, many adorned with decorations and sentiments for the future, took their seats as Principal Tim Friess opened the ceremony.
He introduced class President Dawson Lane Clark, who led the class in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Otter gave the first speech, thanking all the mothers in the audience for sharing their special day with the graduates. She noted that there was no way she and her peers could have gotten as far as they did without some sort of driving force.
“This is the last time we all will be in the same place, at the same time, for the same reason,” she said. She urged classmates to face the future living in the present, not the past or the future.
Rugan then spoke to the need for ongoing compassion as his class entered the adult world. He shared a personal experience involving a peer who turned to him to share a struggle with suicidal thoughts because Rugan had been compassionate towards the student.
“From this experience, I learned how our actions affect those around us, and that an act of kindness, no matter how small, is not insignificant,” he said.
He was followed by Heath, who provided the superhero metaphor for the class.
Friess had the last word, urging students to turn to the Bible when they need guidance in the future.
“It is not so important where you go and what you do in life, but it is important who you walk with,” he said. “Never be afraid to try new things because, after all, an amateur built the Ark, but a professional built the Titanic.”
With that, he invited the first row of students to stand, and made his way to the head of the line to begin presenting diplomas. As he called out the names in alphabetical order, cheers and noisemakers could be heard from the bleachers where hundreds of family members and friends waited in anticipation.
Unified School District 428 Board members President Joyce Carter, Vice President Chris Umphres, Dr. Larry Kutina, Kevin Mauler, Lori Reneau, Cheryl Rugan and Susan Young presented students with their diplomas. Rugan had the special privilege of presenting her son, Wyatt, with his.
In total, 185 graduates were recognized as part of the Class of 2017, and as Friess made the acclamation, the students celebrated with cheers and “silly string,” with only a few tossing their hats in the air. Moments later, families gathered on the field to take photos with Great Bend’s newest graduates.