A recurring theme kept popping up in the speeches given Sunday afternoon at Forreston High School graduation.
Science teacher and baseball coach Michael McClellan brought it up first.
He recalled that a year ago at graduation, principal Travis Heinz called the Class of 2018 “the best class ever” in the school’s history.
Since then, McClellan said he had given lots of thought as to what it takes to be “the best class ever,” concluding that humbleness, honesty, and helpfulness are required.
To demonstrate that the Class of 2019 met those requirements, he asked the audience to stand if they had ever witnessed anyone in the class displaying those qualities. Everyone stood.
He then asked members of the class to stand if they had ever been a servant leader, community volunteer, helped at home, held a job, or met with success in academics, sports, or other school activities.
They all stood.
McClellan praised the leadership abilities of the class, its love for others, and its accomplishments, and then gave his conclusion.
“I dub you, the Class of 2019, as the best class ever,” he said. “If you’re truly the best class ever, you will continue your humbleness, honesty, and helpfulness. You will continue to learn, you will continue to love, you will continue to lead.”
Valedictorian Mark DeWall continued the good-natured roasting of Heinz.
He focused on the unity of the class and their caring attitude for each other, calling them his “family” and jokingly referred to Heinz as “Pops.”
He touched on the death of classmate Drew Crase in a car accident in November of 2017 and how his classmates supported each other though the loss.
Every senior wore a blue cord to honor and remember Crase.
“I’m reminded every day how I can see the fingerprints of God on each and every one of you,” he said.
Heinz finally got his turn, recalling that “each and every day” for the last year, he has been reminded about his “best class ever” remarks.
“I admit I might have misspoken. I apologize….now get over it,” he said with a grin. “The Class of 2019 has had one of the best senior years in the history of Forreston High School.”
He recounted their accomplishments: a football state championship; regional championships in volleyball, boys basketball, softball and baseball; third place in the state music sweepstakes award for the band and choir; awards in several regional art shows; state qualifying FFA teams; and top 10 percent in the state for academic achievements.
“That has never happened before,” Heinz said. "Why did this happen? They're competitve."
He offered advice to the 53 members of the class, which included his own son Mitchell.
“Commit to the journey, not the outcome,” he said. “Journeys are about relationships. This class will be remembered more for its relationships than its accomplishments.”
Superintendent Sheri Smith said the class has earned a total of $575,000 in scholarships - a new school record.
“I think this illustrates this class’ commitment to academic excellence as well as service to the school and community,” she said.
Smith presented medallions to the six seniors with the top grade point averages in the class: DeWall with a 4.17 on a 4.0 scale, co-salutatorians Bailey Brooks and Jacqueline Ludwig, each with a 4.11, Aaron Wubbena with a 4.09, and Grace Carr and Rachel Metzger, each with a 4.07.