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Personal ceremony honors LPHS graduates

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Lone Peak High School Principal Dr. Marlo Mitchem presents the Class of 2022 at a June 4 graduation ceremony. PHOTO BY BELLA BUTLER


BIG SKY – On the same hardwood where they scored their first baskets, celebrated senior nights and hosted community Veterans Day assemblies, nineteen Lone Peak High School seniors donning royal blue graduation robes and caps strutted with poise into the Bough-Dolan Athletic Complex on June 4.

It’s the hardwood they shuffled across at school dances, sweated on during gym classes and learned tough lessons about victory and defeat. In small towns, a gym isn’t just a gym.

Similarly, a graduating class in a community like Big Sky is so much more than just a cohort of peers that toiled through algebra and American history together. These 19 students have been each other’s friends, teammates, sometimes competitors, and as co-valedictorian Carly Wilson suggested in her graduation speech, they’ve been each other’s teachers.

“Some things you just have to learn from experience,” she said, “particularly experiences with the people closest to you.”

After accepting her diploma, graduate Carly Wilson gives Big Sky School District Chair and her basketball coach, Loren Bough, a hug as she walks across the stage. PHOTO BY BELLA BUTLER

Each of Wilson’s peers took turns blushing as she used her stage time to honor what each of them had taught her during their tenure together at Ophir Schools and LPHS. Like Wilson’s address, the rest of the ceremony was personal, a special privilege enjoyed at a school where students, teachers and staff as well as family and community members in attendance all know each other as longtime friends and neighbors.

The class’ other valedictorian, John Chadwell, as well as Lone Peak High School Student Council President Luke Kirchmayr, joined Wilson in giving speeches, both of which touched on sense of place and sense of community—inside of the classroom and beyond.

Kirchmayr said the 11,550 hours of school the students had completed between kindergarten and their senior year was well beyond the 10,000 of practice Malcolm Gladwell suggested is required to achieve mastery. But it’s more than that, too, Kirchmayr said.

“Horace Mann, perhaps the most famous American educational reformer and public school advocate, sets the bar even higher, saying that what we’ve done here is to participate in the cornerstone of our community and our democracy,” Kirchamayr said. “Looking around this room, I know for certain that our school is at the core of the community.”

The graduating class elected to have middle and high school technology teacher and longtime BSSD faculty member Jeremy Harder give the faculty address. Harder strayed from the cliché graduation speech parables and instead recounted his own misguided moments in life to offer some of his learned wisdom.

Jeremy Harder gives the faculty address at the June 4 graduation ceremony. PHOTO BY BELLA BUTLER

“Put your phones down, get outside and do something else with your hands,” Harder said. “Get dirty, try something new, or come back to something that made you happy when you were younger … The things that made you weird as a kid could make you great as an adult.”

The graduation keynote speech was given by intrepid and esteemed journalist Thomas Nybo. Through stories of reporting on volatile war zones, child-labor mines and the frontlines of wildfires, Nybo encouraged the Class of 2022 to be daring and choose adventure.

“Get out of your comfort zone and know that in life’s crucial moments, you need to go all in,” Nybo said.

It’s a similar sentiment shared by Chadwell when he told his peers, “Each of us has something critical to contribute to the world, we cannot let fear stop us.”

The presentation of diplomas was equally as personal as the rest of the ceremony. As each student walked up to the stage, passing between high school and what lies next, LPHS Principal Marlo Mitchem read aloud their future plans as well as their favorite memory from their time as a Big Horn.

On behalf of the students, Mitchem described nail-biter overtime football games, the senior backpacking trip and several other anchors in the students’ high school experience.

Just like a gym isn’t just a gym and a class isn’t just a class, four years of high school are much more than a series of classes inside four walls. For these students on their graduation day, it was the springboard to the rest of their lives.

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