By Tucker Harris EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – In a uniquely Big Sky celebration on Feb. 19, Big Sky Discovery Academy seniors Libby Flach and Kyan Smit skied in tandem down Lone Mountain in light pink graduation gowns. Beaming, the two students arrived to the Summit Hotel patio, where proud friends, peers and family awaited them for a graduation ceremony.
Both lifelong residents of Big Sky, skiing was an apt way for the students to conclude their time as students in the resort town. Two of three members of Discovery Academy’s Class of 2022, Smit and Flach celebrated their education at the state’s only Montessori-based high school with an equally intimate commencement.
The third member of the Class of 2022, Annel Garcia, will graduate in June before taking a gap year to focus on studying music, Discovery Head of Schools Scott Poloff said.
“I just wanted to say thank you because you are model students of what Discovery students should be,” Poloff said in his opening speech. “On behalf of the board, the staff and your classmates—who are all hanging out in the back—thank you for coming.”
Flach transferred from Lone Peak High School to Discovery Academy her junior year. She has been involved in Big Sky Broadway for the past 10 years and currently works at Warren Miller Performing Arts Center helping put on the Beyond the Fourth Wall immersive escape room experience. Flach will appear in the upcoming Big Sky Broadway high school musical, “Oklahoma” at WMPAC this spring.
Next fall, Flach will continue her education at Northern Arizona University studying studio art.
When not in the classroom, you can find Smit making turns on his home mountain, Big Sky Resort. Smit is on the Big Sky Ski Education Foundation Freeride team.
Smit is still deciding between attending the University of Utah, Gonzaga University or Montana State University.
During the ceremony, Smit gave a speech of gratitude, thanking his family and the school for helping him succeed and live a life full of skiing in Big Sky.
Smit thanked his former teachers for presenting him with amazing opportunities and teaching him life lessons alongside his education.
“Lastly, I want to thank the Board and Big Sky Discovery Academy for teaching me the importance of balancing my hobbies and my fun life with the work and the school aspect of life and just how to have a great time… I love you all,” Smit closed to a round of applause from his family and friends.
Beth Marlington, Big Sky Discovery Academy’s upper school director, followed Smit with reflections on her time spent with the two students. She spoke of the threshold they were about to pass through as they graduate from the small town of Big Sky and move onto adulthood and into the “big world.”
Marlington, who’s due to have a child of her own soon, expressed hopes for her child to grow up with qualities she sees in both Flach and Smit.
“I hope my little one will be like Libby: conscientious and confident,” Marlington said. “Libby, I know your strong will and your conviction will serve you well out there in the big world.”
“I also hope my little one will be like Kyan too: enthusiastic and curious.” Marlington said. “Kyan, I hope that you continue to be determined and passionate and that you pursue your dreams.”
Both students welcomed Marlington into a warm hug after her speech.
The pair received handmade diplomas by Discovery’s Art Education teacher, Hannah Boyd, holding onto their caps as the wind threatened to pull them off.
Flach said the art education at Discovery Academy helped shape her future goals, including studying studio art at NAU next fall.
“Junior year, I was in an art class with Kate Riley and she really helped me realize how much I do really like creating,” Flach said. “I spent the whole year with her and made some of my favorite pieces and really grew as an artist.”
Smit’s plans between now and next fall are to ski the rest of the season and decide on where he will move onto for college.
“It’s just insane thinking about graduating and leaving this place,” Smit said after the ceremony. “I appreciate the opportunities [Discovery] has brought me and skiing, allowing me to only go to school three days a week, while skiing four days a week.”
As the intimate crowd of friends and family finished taking photos and sharing congratulations, the graduates and friends were ready to take advantage of the beautiful bluebird day on the mountain.
“Let’s go ski,” one of Smit’s friends called out.