DAYTON – Close-knit hardly begins to describe the class of 2013 at Tongue River High School in Dayton. The class of 29 students spent 13 years together, and the bonds forged over those years were evident during the class’s graduation ceremony Sunday evening.
“It’s a very bittersweet feeling because we’ve been surrounded by the same people for 13 years, and now we’re all venturing off into our own adventures, and it’s definitely going to be hard to do it by ourselves,” graduating senior Eilish Hanson said.
The ceremony was filled with personal touches.
Seniors took a moment to give flowers – and hugs and kisses – to family and friends in the audience who had supported them through the years.
A video presentation was filled with those “behind-the-scenes” moments on buses, at lunchtime or before class that make school fun (though that may be hard to admit) and memorable.
Graduate Kayleigh Pawlowski’s family could be picked out of the crowd from across the gym since her uncle was wearing a pink flamingo hat and her aunt was waving a blow-up pink flamingo in the air. The pink flamingoes are a family tradition and Pawlowski requested they be brought to the ceremony.
“I’ll do anything for my niece. She’s my pride and joy,” her uncle Pat Pawlowski said.
The senior class chose Pete Mohseni and Paul Marshall to be keynote speakers. Mohseni was first grade teacher for most students in the class, and Marshall was their civics teacher.
“They are sensitive, caring, loving and very funny,” Mohseni said about the class he watched grow into young adults. He encouraged his students to explore and dream, to take baby steps — even if some were in the wrong direction – and to travel and get out of their comfort zones.
Salutatorian Donovan Powers peppered his speech with satire because he didn’t want people to have to sit through another boring graduation.
“I think the heartfelt thing often gets overdone, so I’m going to try to do a satirical look at how people can be successful going forward and intentionally give the worst advice I can sending people out on their life paths,” Powers said.
But on a serious note, Powers nodded his head to the sentimentality of the day: “You spend more time with your classmates going through school than you do your family. These people are the single biggest influence on who you are today. I hope that as we go on we remember that, that these are our roots and we don’t abandon that.
According to guidance counselor Peter Kilbride, many students will attend Sheridan College or the University of Wyoming. The class earned more than $235,000 in scholarship funds, with $144,000 in Hathaway scholarships to be used in Wyoming schools. Valedictorian Sarah Maze won a full-ride Presidential Trustees scholarship to UW to study physiology and pre-med.
Maze, in her valedictorian speech, compared the feeling of graduation to a sucker a kid gets bored with and drops in the dirt — only to realize later that that sucker is the one he really wants. It’s hard to let go, she said. But then she handed out brand new suckers to each of her classmates and told them to open them up
“Today’s sucker tastes like opportunity, promise and possibility,” she said. “This speech is an introduction to the rest of our life. After we jump, all we’re going to want to do is jump again.”