POCATELLO — After a fire destroyed a portion of Highland High School, the graduating class of 2023 gathered at the Portneuf Health Trust Amphitheater Thursday to celebrate the end to four hard years of work. The 332 graduates and their families and friends gathered under the wide sky and bright sun to commemorate this day.
The Highland High Symphonic Band played a piece called “Excerpts from Firebird Suite” by Igor Stavinsky. Principal Brad Wallace said the song was chosen by the band because the music represents a phoenix rising from the ashes.
That sentiment was expressed in all of the speeches by the student speakers.
“We became survivors of a worldwide pandemic and students of a school in ashes,” said Emalyn Bailey, Class Valedictorian.
The main message of Bailey’s speech was the students have “more power than (they) know.” She spoke about her time as a high school debater, and how she used to blame her losses on anything but herself. She said that she knows she’s not the only one who does this, whether it’s blaming a referee for a call or a teacher for not preparing them for a test.
When she reached her Junior year, she said she and her debate partner decided, “When we lost, it was our fault.”
“If it was our fault, then we could fix the problem,” Bailey said. With this self-reflection, Bailey said that she and her partner went on to make it to the finals round of Public Forum at State Debate.
Rachel Wilcox, Senior Class President, spoke on the value of self-reflection. She also reflected on everything the class has gone through in their four years together.
“Looking back, some days were great, some days were terrible. There was even that one day when our school burnt down,” Wilcox said.
“If our time together has taught us anything, it’s that life is uncertain. Nothing is guaranteed. Even though high school is over, our hard times certainly aren’t,” Wilcox said. Even despite the uncertainty they faced in high school, she said that they’ve also learned how to find joy and happiness.
“In the past four years, we have not only learned how to write essays and find the square root of an imaginary number, we have also learned how to prepare for the future, live in the moment and enjoy time together,” Wilcox said.
Photo courtesy of SD25
Ammon Tingey, Student Body President, was proud of how their class had been able to push past the hardships they faced and not wallow in them. He spoke about the story of Louis Zamperini, the champion track runner who survived being a prisoner of war during World War II and went on to offer service to his community until his passing.
“I’m in no way comparing our high school experience to that of being a prisoner of war as Louis Zamperini was, but I do think it’s important that we can find the commonalities between the ways we reacted to tragedies,” Tingey said.
“We lost the gym where we watched basketball games, the choir where we sang together, the weight room where he hit PRs together, part of the hall that commemorated the rich tradition that flowed through Highland. But rather than dwelling in ourselves and working with the little time we had left, we dedicated our high school to other people,” Tingey said.
Tingey was proud of the $30,000 raised they raised over their time in high school for the Make-a-Wish foundation, the families they gave a magical Christmas to and the money they raised for veterans and the elderly.
“Our life is not over yet,” Tingey said. “You have so much to give and so much to offer. This is your life. This is your time.”
“I encourage you all to reflect on who you are, and who you want to be,” Tingey said. “Graduates, we made it this far. Let’s go show the world what we can do.”
“I encourage you all to reflect on who you are, and who you want to be,” Wilcox said. “Graduates, we made it this far. Let’s go show the world what we can do.”
“Class of 2023, we are leaving our bubble of fine free library books and built-in meal plans to enter a world squirming with slimy problems and thorny controversies that we had no part in creating,” Bailey said.
Bailey made a request of her classmates.
“Find a problem, and fix it,” she said.
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