Each of the students approached the podium to his or her own intro song.
A succession of teachers listed the individual goals of the graduates, from continuing ranching, to rodeo, to the U.S. Marines, to Northwest College.
At one point, each one went into the seats at Wynona Thompson Auditorium to give a flower to his or her family in thanks.
Then together the 15 graduates of Heart Mountain Academy made history Thursday night as the largest class from the Cody School District’s four-year-old school to receive diplomas.
For three of them – Trevor Morlock, Kayla Ward and Kelly Woodward – it was the completion of four years at the school, the first three to finish a full high school career. For that, principal Beth Blatt gave each a pendant of a wolf – the school mascot.
“These students will forever hold a special place in our hearts,” Blatt said. “They were some of the first students in this school.”
She said she was honored to see all 15 receive diplomas from the alternative high school, overcoming challenges along the way.
“Your hard work, perseverance, resilience and a commitment to your education is to be commended,” Blatt said.
The graduates also expressed their gratitude.
“We have a special thank you to Mrs. Blatt for giving us a second chance to succeed,” grad Elizabeth Torgerson said on behalf of the group as they delivered flowers to their principal.
“She has a heart of gold – she inspired us to never give up.”
Student speaker Hunter Koster delved into many of her fellow graduate’s thoughts on their time at the school, pulling from 12th grade English class essays they wrote.
She read her peers’ thoughts on the value of hard work, the power of believing in God, the help of family and friends, the idea that you either win or learn – never lose – and the importance of needing to change before you can move forward.
Then she finished with some of her own words.
“Wherever the next chapters in your life’s story may take you, make sure the journey includes joy,” Koster said.
In Blatt’s final remarks, the principal had the teachers present each graduate with a cup and then she implored them to fill it – with love, ambition, energy, knowledge, adventure and kindness.
“You can’t give to others from an empty cup. So take care of yourself and fill it first,” Blatt said. “And in the cup of life, if you only focus on what you don’t have, you’ll never have enough. But if you focus on what you do have, you’ll never need more.”
Then the graduates turned their tassels and left the stage into the waiting arms of family and friends in the crowded auditorium.