HELENA – Hundreds of students and thousands of guests celebrated in Helena Saturday, as seniors from Helena High School and Capital High School officially graduated.
The ceremonies began at 10 a.m., when almost 300 Helena High seniors walked into Carroll College’s Nelson Stadium. A student orchestra welcomed them in with the traditional playing of “Pomp and Circumstance.”
HHS principal Steve Thennis said he was honored to witness the seniors’ successes.
“Can you believe that I get to watch these kids each and every day?” he said. “I wouldn’t trade places for anything, to watch the satisfaction these kids as they grow up from freshmen through their senior year.”
At 2 p.m., it was Capital High students’ turn. More than 300 graduates collected their diplomas at Nelson Stadium.
Capital principal Brett Zanto said this year’s senior class had to go through a number of changes in curriculum as they went through high school.
“These seniors sitting before us have really paved some impressive roads that other classes are following,” he said. “The class of 2018 rose to meet and defeat the challenges set forth in front of them.”
Rainy weather earlier in the week gave way to sunny skies, giving organizers enough time to hold the events outside.
“What a gorgeous day,” said Helena Public Schools Superintendent Jack Copps, presiding over his last graduation ceremony before retiring at the end of June.
Because the ceremonies were held outside, district leaders expected about 5,000 to 7,000 attendees at each. If they had been held inside, there would only have been room for about half that number.
Madison Quick, who graduated from Capital two years ago, was back Saturday to watch her brother Conor graduate. She was at the stadium with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
“It’s a fun time, to realize that you’re finally done and off to a new world,” she said.
Helena High graduates Grace Fischer, Leanna Markovics, Maggie Needs and Alli Wade said this moment meant a lot to them.
“The challenges that we’ve overcome as a group have just brought our class together, I think more than other classes,” said Fischer. “It just makes you proud to have made it through with people like this.”
They had no hesitation when asked what they will miss most about HHS.
“These guys!” said Needs.
Helena High honored 13 valedictorians and two salutatorians during Saturday’s ceremony, while Capital High named 33 valedictorians and 11 salutatorians.
Both groups of seniors heard from a successful alumnus of their school. Schylar Canfield-Baber, the executive director of the national advocacy group Voice for Adoption, spoke at Helena High’s graduation, while Tom McMahon, special teams coordinator for the Denver Broncos, spoke to Capital students.