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FBCS graduates soar toward bright futures

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | June 11, 2024 1:00 AM

Grace and love.

Those are what he wants them to take into the world as they leave Forrest Bird Charter School as graduates, FBCS teacher Mark Webber told the 22 now-alumni during Saturday's commencement ceremony.

"When I think about what brings us all here today to celebrate your accomplishments, I think probably the single most important motivation, which is love and grace," Webber said. "And at this time and space in human history, loving grace is needed more than ever in our society. Love to care enough to put your own desires aside to help someone who may be struggling with the issues that plague us all in this world, and grace to overlook a person's ill choices that may have caused a struggle in the first place."

And that love and grace can be found in abundance in each of the graduates. If someone needs help, they are among the first to lend a hand. If someone is having a bad day, they are the first to offer support, Webber said.

The love and grace that they already show are the secrets to a life well lived, he told them as he recalled a decade spent as an English literature teacher before switching to other subjects. While he loves literature — especially Shakespeare — Webber said there are times he "despises" the English language, citing the word "love" and how it is portrayed.

In English, love is one word. In other languages, such as Greek, there are multiple words to describe love, depending on its context and the subject of what or who is being loved. He relayed a parable he used to use with his English students as a beginning teacher.

Joey and Betty Lou are dating and decided to go to the drive-in movie. After taking her home, Joey parks and puts his arm around Betty Lou, who eventually snuggles in, and they kiss. When things move too quickly, she jumps out of the truck and slams the door, causing Joey to grow upset over potential damage to his truck.

She rushes inside, eventually telling her mother that her boyfriend loved his truck more than he did her. The next day, Joey walks into work, where his boss — who happens to be Betty Lou's father — tells the youth that he needs to get his priorities straight and put people before things. 

"The language English borrows the word love from is the ancient Greeks," Webber said. "It is unfortunate that, over the years, the word love has been lost in translation."

The ancient Greeks had at least eight forms of the word love, three of which can be seen in his tale — a passionate love, the love of family members for each other, and "agape love" — perhaps the highest form of love, Webber told graduates.

"It is a sacrificial love in which you put your feelings last and another person's needs, even possibly a stranger's needs first before your own," he said. "Agape is choosing to overlook someone's faults and to commit to helping them anyway."

Growing up in Oregon, he told the graduates that he remembers seeing "Jesus loves you" spraypainted everywhere and asking his parents what it meant. They told him about the golden rule, that Jesus taught to love others as you do yourself.

He told the class they are surrounded by love — love from their families and friends, love from their teachers and Forrest Bird staff, and more. They are there to support and assist them and are genuinely invested in their success.

"Graduates, as you move across the stage today, remember to use the word love correctly and to continue to love those who need a little encouragement in the future," Webber told them as he wrapped up his speech. "Do not be afraid to show them grace by overlooking their flaws, and give them the chance to feel love, too."

He thanked the class for demonstrating acts of love and kindness.

"You are well on your way, and the world is already a better place because of you," Webber said.

Noting that rituals and ceremonies exist in every culture to mark key events, graduations can be counted among them, Forrest Bird principal Eric Fulgenzi told the school's 24 graduates Saturday.

"In every culture, ceremonies and rituals exist to mark the passing of our lives," he said in welcoming them and their families to the ceremony. "Perhaps more interestingly to me, the ceremonies actually create time for us. They don't just mark it. We don't reminisce with friends and say, 'Do you remember June 8, 2024?' We say, 'Do you remember graduation?'"

Each of the school's 22 graduates is a remarkable individual who has conquered all the challenges that the world and school put before them. They survived a pandemic and grew from "shy, awkward little tweens to confident, outgoing almost-adults" ready to make their own mark in the world, Fulgenzi told them.

The class has future librarians, filmmakers, pilots, and psychologists. There are world travelers, animal lovers and authors, entrepreneurs, auto mechanics, and public servants. Each of those students has a bright future ahead of them, the principal said.

The ceremony marks the end of one period in their lives and the beginning of others. Fulgenzi commended them for overcoming both academic and personal struggles and praised them for daring to dream.

"You've dreamed big, you've fallen flat, and you've gotten back up again — and that's what matters," he added. "You're in this auditorium, taking part in this ceremony, because you've refused to stay down. You continue to work hard, be kind, and respect to one another."

Despite their differences, they've celebrated successes and weathered heartbreak. They worked multiple jobs, studied hard and have proven strong and resilient.

"And so I give you one final instruction," Fulgenzi said. "Continue to perservere and do so with kindness and compassion."

Maggie Randall, chosen by her classmates to speak, told her fellow graduates that they had made it to the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

"Today, we stand on the edge of our futures — thrilled, eager, hesitant, but ready to seize every moment that we can find," Randall said.

Moving from what is known into what is not, she said the road ahead might be challenging and uncertain, but, comparing them to baby birds, told them that they are ready to leave the nest.

"We must remember that every bird has to take that leap to soar," Randall said. "As we now embark on this journey of ours, we must not forget what we were taught. Let us allow bravery to be our compass and determination to be our wings."

Graduating from Forrest Bird Charter High School are Sonny Aitken, Erin Baines, Bennett Bienkowski, Dustin Borges, Caden Burns, ShongNang Callos, Faythe Chudy, Allison Connary, Merrell Cunningham, Trinity Deal, Jaime Dorhofer, Emma Gipsonh, Karton Goodwin, Nevaeh Hines, Hannah Elizabeth Kowalski, Katerina Nicole Lamber, Amanda Patzer, Maggie Randall, Dakyn Robbins, Rebecca Sedbrook, Avery Smart, Malachi Tucker and Christopher Werry. Bienkowski, Goodwin, Randall and Sedbrook graduated with honors, with Bienkowski, Cunningham, Goodwin and Randall also graduating with an associate degree. Goodwin graduated with academic excellence.

    Forrest Bird High School graduates smile as they listen to a speech by teacher Mark Webber at Saturday's graduation.
 
 
    A Forrest Bird Charter graduates films a commencement speech on his phone during Saturday's graduation ceremony at the Sandpoint Events Center.
 
 


    Forrest Bird Charter administrator Mary Jensen gives Karston Goodwin a hug after announcing he had earned academic excellence honors. The announcement was made at Saturday's FBCS graduation.