(HELENA) Hundreds of students from Helena and Capital High Schools celebrated the completion of their public school careers Saturday, at the Helena School District’s annual graduation ceremonies.
The festivities started at 10 a.m., when Capital High students marched into Carroll College’s Nelson Stadium to the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance.” It was the school’s 45th annual commencement, honoring 282 graduates.
CHS principal Brett Zanto said graduates will face challenges as they go through their lives, but they’ve already overcome a lot as students.
“As exemplified by the perseverance shown so far, they are well prepared for the obstacles that will come their way,” he said. “Seniors, no matter where you go after today, all of you share one common bond and that is Capital High School.”
At 2 p.m., Helena High students took their turn. About 350 graduating seniors received their diplomas.
Principal Steve Thennis said he’s been impressed by everything this graduating class has accomplished.
“Helena High boasts some of the absolute most amazing kids you’ll ever encounter, and they are far more talented than most of us that are sitting in the stands today,” he said. “I’ve been honored and blessed to grow up with you, and thank you for letting me join your ride.”
School district leaders made plans for possibly holding the ceremonies inside if there was heavy smoke or rain in Helena, but in the end, they were able to keep them outdoors. That meant plenty of room for thousands of proud friends and family members to watch the graduates.
One student with a particularly large cheering section was Helena High valedictorian Grady Koenig. More than a dozen people were in the stands to watch him graduate. Grandmother Cathy Johnston came from Boise, while great-aunt Sherry Lawson came in from Lynnwood, Washington.
“More than proud,” said Johnston. “See me beaming?”
Tyler Ream, attending his first commencement ceremonies as Helena Public Schools superintendent, asked graduates to remember that support they’ve received.
“Do not let this beautiful sun go down on you today without thinking about everybody who has helped you to get to this place today,” he said.
Graduates like Capital High’s Kristin Albertson and Kathleen Coddington said Saturday’s ceremonies were big moments for them.
“Very emotional, overwhelming, exciting,” said Albertson.
“Sitting in those chairs was just surreal,” Coddington said. ”I felt like I should have been up in the bleachers once again this year, but it felt amazing to be able to turn my cap and throw it.”
Wherever they head next, the Class of 2019 says they will take a lot from their time at Helena High and Capital High.
“Definitely I take away my friendships and the relationships I’ve made with people,” Albertson said. “I’m definitely going to miss it. It was a great four years of my life.”
Capital High recognized 28 students as valedictorians and eight as salutatorians, while Helena High named 15 valedictorians and eight salutatorians.
Both graduation ceremonies included keynote speeches from successful alumni of their respective schools. Wheat Montana entrepreneur Dean Folkvord addressed Capital students, while Helena High graduates heard from Helena school board vice-chair and former HHS teacher Terry Beaver.