Forreston High School’s gym was bursting with proud friends and family, red and black adornments, and school spirit as the Class of 2017 said goodbye to high school.
Graduation festivities began at 2 p.m. on May 14, but there was scarcely a seat available by 1:30.
Sixty-eight seniors marched through a red and black balloon archway and over a runner autographed by the students.
In honor of Mother’s Day, Principal Travis Heinz gave a brief opening statement before calling mothers in attendance to the main aisle to show love for their graduates.
Superintendent Sheri Smith had her turn to address the students, honoring them for their accomplishments, and reflected on pieces of advice she offered students leading up to graduation.
“Graduation is highly emotional,” Smith reminded the class, amongst interspersed tears in the crowd.
Smith said that the people who love the graduates the most always want to see them succeed, but never expected graduation day to come so soon.
She also honored members of the class headed into the armed forces, including Steve Christensen III, U.S. Marines; Tara Fenelon, U.S. Air Force; Zachary Thill, Army National Guard; and Jonas Haugen, U.S. Navy.
After final farewells from Smith, It was the first of two valedictorians - Emily Homman’s - turn to address the class, and she did so with a song.
“Tomorrow, some of us will wake up and go to work. Others will start a job search. Some will enter trade school, and in the fall, some of us will go to college,” Homman said. “Today marks the end of the world as we know it.”
Near the end of her speech, Homman did something unique: she compiled a list of something near and dear to all 68 individual students, and sang a song to the tune of R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”
“It may be the end of the world as we know it, but it’s not actually the end of the world,” Homman concluded. “Use the knowledge you’ve gained to live your life, find your purpose, and follow your dreams.”
Homman wasn’t the only one to personally address the class; English teacher Anne Magarity gave the teacher address to the students - and in it, she included something personally she appreciated about each student.
Sheyania Hughes, Forreston’s second valedictorian, conjured up feelings up how short time really is, saying how it seemed like yesterday the Class of 2017 were “Freshmen looking clueless to the upper classes,” only to be senior graduates entering the world.
“My challenge to you all, and to myself, is: dare to excel,” Hughes pleaded to her peers. “Dare to go the extra mile; dare to show compassion to the world; dare to make your mark in this world; dare to have empathy; and dare to be the best that you can be.”
Before giving his final address to the seniors, Heinz presented honors to the top 10 percent of the graduating class, which included Bryan Edler, Katie Fisher, Alexia Gruhn, Emily Homman, Sheyania Hughes, Emma Nelson, and Michael Wubbena.
In his address, Heinz said he originally planned to be inspirational. However, he decided if he really wanted to do something lasting and unique, he needed to go back to his roots as an English teacher, and that meant a vocabulary lesson.
He said he was asked why the ceremony was officially called a commencement, and not simply “graduation.”
“A graduation means ‘the receiving or conferring of an academic degree or diploma,’ and that’s not enough,” Heinz explained. “Commencement means ‘a beginning or start,’ and that’s what this is.”
According to Heinz, despite the years spent in school, the diplomas and honors earned, and the journeys traveled, life was just starting for the Class of 2017.
After diplomas were awarded, the ceremony concluded with a song from the Forreston School Mixed Choir, “I Lived,” arranged by Jacob Narverud.
Afterward, the graduates and attendees exited to the lawn, for hugs, pictures, congratulations, and farewells.