The Falls City High School Class of 2015 celebrated graduation Sunday afternoon at Prichard Auditorium and the graduating class of 58 entered the Auditorium to “Fanfare and Processional”, performed by the Falls City High School band.
The commencement exercise featured the Cum Laude system, as it has since 2011, where there is neither a Salutatorian nor Valedictorian, but rather graduates with varying degrees of distinction. Graduating Summa Cum Laude (with highest distinction) were speakers Baylee Vrtiska and Derik Eickhoff.
The six others graduating Summa Cum Laude were: Sydney Armbruster, Taylor O’Brien, Elizabeth Oliver, Maygan Ramsey, Marrissa Stark and Brody Weinmann.
Graduating with high academic distinction as Magna Cum Laude, were: Justin Ernst, Brandon Gibson, Zachary Jordening and Weston Witt. Graduating with academic distinction as Cum Laude, were: Preston Deckinger, Shiloah Feighner, Brenden Heckenlively, Lee Huettner, Montana Jones, Tucker Merz, Kaylee Rosenberger and Jordy Stoller.
The remainder of the FCHS Class of 2015: Payton Adams, Jerrica Beckner, Treyvin Bek, Mary Bieker, Isaac Bird, Alessandro Bosio, Chelsae Campbell, Desiree Dawkins, Alex Dean, Trenton DeBusk, Lindsey Duerfeldt, Matthew Foster, Christopher Harmon, Jackson Hartman, Chad Howard, Delisa Kirkendall, Lucas Kirkendall, Ty Larson, Alexandria Lendermon, Lane Lovenburg, Jillian Lunsford, Shianne Mackey, Coulton McCann, Derek McCann, Alexander Nelsen, Ashlee Patnode, Nathan Peacock, Sidney Prichard, Austin Ramer, Kenneth Rider, Chelsea Roberts, Krystal Samqua, Theodore Stutheit, Jessica Sweetwater, Todd Thompson II, Kira Vollan, Anthony Winters, and Jeremy Zimmerman.
As a whole, the class was offered more than $1 million in scholarships.
Syd Armbruster started the ceremony with a prayer and District 56 School Supt. Tim Heckenlively gave the welcome address, encouraging students to say “yes” to the opportunities that they will encounter in the next few years.
“Don’t be afraid to explore, and get to know people outside your circle of friends. There is a big world outside of Falls City, filled with incredible people and your next few years offer you a unique opportunity to experience it,” Heckenlively said.
He also encouraged students to determine their future career path, figure out what they like to do and go for it, and your job will never seem like work because true success comes from enjoying what you do.
For the last piece of advice he offered to the graduates he said, “while it’s important to earn a living, learning how to live your life will be the most important lesson you learn over the next five years. The next five years will help you better understand people and how the world works. You’ll discover, some of your most challenging days lie ahead but so do some of your happiest ones.”
Principle Gayle Dunkhas then introduced Baylee Vrtiska as the first speaker. Vrtiska stated how the class grew up together and learned many lessons along the way such as sticking together, cleaning up their messes and learning the ABCs. As they continued to grow she pointed out the lessons they learned began to get harder and how some friendships were put to the test. Vrtiska continued on with thanking the teachers and staff, the guidance counselor, custodial staff and lunch ladies, coaches and senior sponsors, and parents for all they did for the class of 2015.
She quoted some of the best advice she has ever heard from the show One Tree Hill. “It’s the oldest story in the world, one day, you’re 17 and you’re planning for someday. And then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life.” She encouraged students to say things they want to say to their friends, and do what they have always wanted to do with someone they love.
“Say it, do it, and don’t wait. Nothing lasts forever.” Vrtiska closed her speech with another One Tree Hill quote, “Make a wish and place it in your heart. Anything you want, everything you want. Do you have it? Good. Now believe it can come true. You never know where the next miracle is going to come from. The next smile, the next wish come true. But if you believe that it’s right around the corner, and you open up your heart and mind to the possibility of it, to the certainty of it, you just might get the thing you’re wishing for. The world is full of magic. You just have to believe in it. So make your wish. Do you have it? Good. Now believe in it, with all of your heart.”
The concert band performed “Rhythm of the Winds”, and then Derik Eickhoff took the stage to give his speech. Eickhoff opened with thanking the administration, faculty, family and friends, stating they would not be where they are today without them and their support. Eickhoff stated that the senior class is starting a new chapter in their lives. The chapter is in their own hands and the conclusion will be in the roads they choose to take. Some roads will be a dead end, some a fork in the road. “You will have to make a choice, the choice will not be easy. You will not know the answer, trust your instincts, they’re usually right.”
Some of the roads will be bumpy and tough to travel, “Life is so unpredictable. You might wind up with a college roommate that is difficult to get along with or other bumps throughout life such as death, poor health, and financial problems. Just remember to keep things in perspective and take life one day at a time,” Eickhoff said.
After Eickhoff concluded his speech the graduates that were part of the choir sang “On my Way”, with solos by Chelsae Campbell, Lindsey Duerfeldt, Derik Eickhoff, Shiloah Feighner, Alexandria Lendermon, and Tucker Merz.
Principal Gayle Dunkhas ended the ceremony with letting the graduating class know that their accomplishments were appreciated. “Your teachers and I are proud of you.” Dunkhas said. He encouraged the graduates to tell their classmates how proud of them they are so they won’t have to wonder. Dunkhas gave the Class of 2015 profound advice such as, “know where you want to go, set your goals and dream big, take responsibility for the good and the bad things, and find your passion.” He reminded them to take chances, “Sometimes you’re going to fail, and when disappointment hits, you have to face it, deal with it and get beyond it. That’s why your family and friends that you maintain and create are so important.”
Dunkhas shared something that his high school principle had told him 33 years ago, “I wish that I could tell you life is going to get easier, but it isn’t. You’re going to have to continue to grow and to get stronger. Pain is only temporary, there is a lot more out there in the world for you, and that made me proud to say I know you before the rest of the world,” he then added, “I can’t wait to see what you become and the difference you make in our world because everyone of you out there has strengths and gifts that are special, and those gifts are going to carry you to be successful in whatever you try. So try big.”
He concluded his speech by thanking the senior sponsors, faculty and staff, mentors, parents, family members and friends who helped and made an impact on each student’s life and wishing the graduating Class of 2015 the best of luck.