By Lori Gottula
Saturday afternoon at Prichard Auditorium, the administrators and faculty of Falls City High School said goodbye to the 69 seniors in the class of 2017.
Clad in the traditional white gowns for the girls, and black for the boys, the students marched in to “Graduation Suite Processional,” the song for which all had been striving since they were in kindergarten. The high school band played the tune, directed by Mr. John Furrow. When the graduates were in place, the audience joined them in standing for our national anthem, a fitting tribute to the country in which most would live as adults. Falls City High School principal, Gale Dunkhas, then introduced senior Peyton Campbell, who gave a student-led prayer. Dr. Tim Heckenlively, superintendent of the district, gave the welcome, and his own bits of advice to the students.
“Use the experiences that you have had at Falls City High School to maximize your potential,” he said. “Fifty-five of the students graduating today participated in extracurricular activities at Falls City High School, and that has been unprecedented. This group of students was active and involved. Continue to be so. And do what makes you happy. If you are passionate about something, it won’t ever seem like work.”
Graduate Sydney Brewer gave the opening student speech, which reflected on the students’ pasts together, and futures apart. Her presentation was based on Dr. Seuss’s book, Oh The Places You’ll Go! “We have brains in our heads thanks to our teachers,” Brewer said. “We have feet in our shoes thanks to our parents. We can steer ourselves in any direction we choose. We are on our own FINALLY. And we get to decide where we go.”
“There will be struggles and disappointments as we strive to reach our dreams, but Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected 27 times. Yet, here I am today, quoting one of his books. Never give up.”
The band, playing with the senior band members for the final time ever, then played the senior song Dark Heart, followed by Megan Eickhoff’s speech to her peers and their families and friends. In her presentation, she encouraged her classmates to dream big.
“D stands for difference,” she said. “Go out into this world and make a difference.”
“R stands for respect, E for expectations, A for achievement, and M for memories.”
In her closing, Megan quoted Henry David Thoreau when she said, “Go confidently in your dreams! Live the life you have imagined!” The senior singers from the high school chorus, under the direction of Alicia Sutton, drew a few tears when they sang the country tear-jerker, “Don’t Blink,” which puts into words the feelings of everyone in the auditorium that day. Life for the graduating seniors seemed to go by in a blink.
Darcy Snethen gave the final student presentation with a speech that centered on gratitude for the past, and hope for the future. She thanked the administration, teachers, and parents for their constant support, then turned to the students and encouraged them to look forward.
“Whether you are entering college, the workforce, or the military, be great at it,” she said. “The future is in your hands.”
Mr. Dunkhas, who served as master of ceremonies came back and shared some of the wisdom that he has garnered since he was a senior in high school.
“Be kind,” he said. “Kindness never goes out of style. Maintain your friends, and make more. Believe in something, and be passionate. Laugh. Be resilient. And continue to make your marks.” He then presented the class, and called each student’s name as he or she walked across the stage one final time. Each received a diploma from one of the school board members.
Then, as parents, families, and friends watched from the stands, the students walked out of Prichard Auditorium to the song, “Graduation Suite Recessional,” now alumni of Falls City High School.
And it went by faster than a blink.