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Clark Fork grads say goodbye to high school

by LAUREN REICHENBACH
Staff Writer | June 9, 2023 1:00 AM

CLARK FORK — Many of the newly minted graduates walked away with tears in their eyes after a very personalized graduation ceremony Wednesday night at Clark Fork High School.

“These memories are becoming bittersweet as we get closer to our next adventure and entering our lives as adults,” co-salutatorian Nathan Shelton told his classmates.

Shelton thanked both the entire school staff as well as the friends and families of all the graduates of the Class of 2023, without whom none of the seniors would be here. Then he turned his attention to his classmates.

“We’ve come a long way and we still have a long way to go,” he said. “Don’t get caught up and forget to enjoy the journey. Work hard but don’t forget to relax. Keep your goals in sight but don’t be afraid to take small steps. Don’t look back and regret, but don’t forget your history. And remember: Drive fast and take chances.”

Since there were only 19 graduates Wednesday night — senior Josephine Young graduated early – there was plenty of time to make the graduation more personal for the students. Clark Fork English teacher Rebecca Palmer, who was the guest speaker, had the graduates turn their chairs around to face her one last time.

She gave each one their own personalized speech, talking about each student's perseverance, drive, work ethic, knowledge and vigor for life, to name just a few of the attributes she said these graduates possessed. While none may admit it, many tears were shed as they received these words of encouragement for this new chapter in their lives.

Palmer also spoke about how the road ahead might seem scary for the young adults as there is no instruction manual for adulthood.

“You are all uniquely capable of forging that path for yourselves,” she said. “I can tell you this: You are ready.”

Valedictorian Emily Myers encouraged her class to look ahead with excitement but to not forget the town that shaped them into who they are today.

“Let us carry the spirit as we step out into the wider world, always open to new possibilities, ready to seize the moment for professional and personal growth,” she said. “In these hallways, we have learned that success is not merely defined by achievements … but rather the journey itself. It is the friendships we formed, the lessons we have learned and the challenges we have overcome that truly shaped us.”

After tossing their hats in the air, many of the grads pulled squirt guns from under their robes, engaging in a brief water battle before greeting their family and friends in the audience.

Of the 20 graduates, nine will be going on to further their education at universities and two will be joining the military.

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Photo by LAUREN REICHENBACH

Grads posed for photos with Principal Phil Kemink as they received their diplomas.

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Photo by LAUREN REICHENBACH

Grads pulled squirt guns from under their robes after throwing their caps in the air.