PRIEST RIVER — Small but mighty was a recurring theme Saturday as Priest River Lamanna High School unleashed 62 graduates into the wider world.
Chloe Livingston, the class of 2019’s salutatorian, noted that many of her classmates have known each other since their days in kindergarten and urged fellow graduates to use the small town they came from as an inspiration rather than a reason to doubt themselves.
“Priest River has produced many remarkable men and women who have become pilots, authors, doctors, engineers, nurses, business owners and so much more,” Livingston said during the commencement ceremony which saw the school’s 1,600-seat gym filled to capacity with family, friends and well-wishers.
Abigail Barnes, the class president, said the class was bound by shared experiences both good and bad, such as the untimely death of Garret Martin Fox, who died at age 14 from muscular dystrophy complications and would have graduated on Saturday. Barnes remembered Fox as a lover of the Angry Birds video game, illustrations of race cars and as a “delightful soul” who was taken sooner than anyone could have imagined.
“Losing a friend so early in life was hard for a lot of us. Our class has been such a close-knit family since the beginning, which is one thing I adore about us,” said Barnes.
The class reserved space on the stage in memory of Fox, whose mother, Sheri Flores, traveled from Georgia to see her son’s classmates take part in the rite of passage.
The event’s keynote speaker, former PRLHS English teacher Brenda Davisson, ran through some of the students’ alleged transgressions and idiosyncrasies, such as Barnes’ penchant for selfies and gossip, Keegan Hagel’s slippery fingers, Parker MacAlvey’s questionable renderings of overweight cats or Samantha Kendle’s unladylike vocabulary.
“I know it was the first and last time that language has ever been used by Samantha,” Davisson deadpanned.
Seven graduates were also singled out for answering the call of duty by entering military service. They included Maria Strickland-Cruz, U.S. Air Force; Caleb Gleason, U.S. Navy; and Colby Poe, Michael Jones, Arron Reyes, Gavin Rogers and Caleb Womack, U.S. Marine Corps. Three others — Gabrielle Hagman, Beverly Landeros and Christina Tefft — held the notable distinction of already possessing North Idaho College associates degrees before they even crossed the stage to receive their high school diplomas.
Regardless of their path forward after Saturday, Tefft urged fellow graduates to work hard and not to wait for opportunities to fall into their laps.
“That is often not the case. Therefore, we persevere and try our best at everything we take on. It will be exhausting and rough at times, but it will pay off in the end,” said Tefft, the class valedictorian.
Principal Joe Kren noted that the ceremony was a culmination of a lot of hard work by the graduates, but also hard work done by parents, grandparents, guardians, school district patrons, teachers and staff.
“Remember where you came from and the family and friends that helped you along the way.
“Strive for greatness, don’t settle and, finally, be a leader for what is right,” he said.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.