SHERIDAN — In a ceremony that vacillated between reflective and joyful, the Big Horn High School class of 2013 bid farewell to their now-former academic home in front of a packed house of family and friends Sunday afternoon.
As rain fell steadily outside, commencement activities inside the school’s gymnasium saw 28 seniors receive their diplomas and a series of encouraging words from some of the adults who knew them best.
“The respect I have for this group cannot be put into words,” said speaker Chase McFadden.
A former Big Horn Middle School teacher, McFadden’s graduation address focused on human legacies and the proper means by which to live a life worth remembering.
The speech was particularly poignant, given the graduates’ loss of classmate Lane Goldhammer in a 2008 car accident.
As eighth-graders at the time, several speakers said Goldhammer’s legacy remained with the students as they moved through their high school careers.
A scholarship in Goldhammer’s name was awarded to Preston Davenport during the ceremony.
Several other students were also awarded scholarships, including Cashlee Cunningham who received an award from the Sheridan-Wyo-Rodeo. Christian Klepperich, Gracie Goldhammer, Patrick McClurg, Briana McKenzie and Preston Davenport received awards from the Big Horn Education Fund, while the Big Horn Lions Club presented scholarships to Weston Mann, Patrick McClurg and Tony Mort and Ryan Carlson.
In total, the 2013 Big Horn class earned more than 70 scholarships valued at about $1.5 million.
During his commencement address, McFadden told the seniors that while they will no doubt make mistakes on their journeys to adulthood, the most enduring legacies are left by those willing to cultivate compassion for others and themselves.
His sentiments were echoed by salutatorian Matt Wigglesworth who compared the high school experience to sometimes frustrating, always challenging effort to complete a Rubik’s Cube puzzle.
“It’s about the imperfections and the memories you make,” he said.
While most of his classmates were looking forward to the opportunity to pursue their passions and ultimately craft their careers, Wigglesworth reminded the graduates to never lose sight of the important things in life.
“Make sure you enrich your life with the lives of others, and enrich others’ lives with your own,” he said.
For his part, valedictorian Lucas Wollenman told his fellow graduates that their future contributions to the world need not be massive in order to be important.
While acknowledging that their paths would likely take them to vastly different places in the years and decades to come, Wollenman said their shared experience at BHHS would bond them together for the rest of their lives.
“Our memories will always be with us no matter where we go,” he said.
Sunday’s ceremony also featured a musical performance from Preston Davenport on guitar, Patrick McClurg on drums and Tyler Roach on bass.
In keeping with local Memorial Day weekend activities, active service members and veterans in attendance were also recognized during the festivities.
Graduate Tyler Roach received further commendation for his plan to enlist following graduation.
While excited to move forward to the next phases of their lives, Wigglesworth reminded his classmates to remain grounded in the present and never pass up an opportunity to contribute to their communities.
“There’s no better place than here, there’s no better time than now,” he said.