Tuesday, June 18, 2024

24 seniors graduates with Plains' class of 2024

by TRACY SCOTT Valley Press
| June 5, 2024 12:00 AM

Twenty-four students from Plains High School received their diplomas Sunday afternoon, including a Vietnam veteran.

The graduation ceremony started off with the Plains VFW Post 3596 color guards, accompanied by a rendition of the national anthem sung by student Abigail Wessley. 

This year’s salutatorian address was delivered by Peyton Wasson, who gave an inspiring speech. 

“Some of us want to become entrepreneurs, or pilots, or electricians, teachers, engineers, and some of us have absolutely no idea what to do after today,” Wasson said.  “Wherever we all end up, I am proud of us all for making it to today.”

Local resident and State Jr. Vice Commander of VFW Department of Montana, Heather Allen, commemorated those missing in past conflicts. Allen’s speech directed the audience to a table displayed in front of the stage called the “Missing Man Table.” The table’s shape and each item displayed on it represented everlasting concern, purity of motives, tears of the missing and hope for their return.

Plains School Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Walsh said during the ceremony, “We are proud of you and who you have become. My hope for you is that you always remain thankful for the gifts you have been given. You have a school and community that is proud of you, and most importantly family and friends who’s sacrifice and support are part of your success.”

The guest speaker was a Sanders County homegrown resident, Jaron Laws. This past school year was Laws’ first year teaching. During his speech Laws jokingly said, “I’ve been thinking about how I can pay you back for the baptism by fire during my first year of teaching, which is why today I’ll be sharing only the most embarrassing stories from the sixth grade.” 

Laws gave the graduating class several important lessons for their future: accept the hard, work hard, handle hard, do hard things first, be willing to have hard conversations, and choose your hard.

The last speaker was Valedictorian Emory Ercanbrack. 

She said, “Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about my feelings regarding graduation and leaving the world of high school behind. Some of those emotions include being nervous, excited and anxious. However, the most overpowering thing that I feel (and I know you all do too) is happy, overjoyed and done. Done with getting up early, done with shoving our brains full of seemingly unimportant information, done with each other. However, deep down I also realized that this whole graduation thing is also tinged with a bit of sadness (at least for me). In all reality it’s because I’ll miss everyone, you guys, class of 2024, teachers, staff, and so on.”

The unsung hero award is awarded to an individual that shows young people how to be a part of the community and accomplish things that need to be done. It is awarded to a person that is ordinary yet does extraordinary things for the community. One who goes beyond and is a Horseman to the core. This year it was awarded to Randy Garrison, the voice of Plains sports events.

The last person to be recognized was an individual who left his graduation class in Plains early to serve during the Vietnam War. He was told to do a report on his experiences and when he returned home from the conflict, he would receive the credit he needed to receive his diploma. 

Nothing was written down about the agreement and upon his return he was not able to receive the diploma. Life went on, but he always wished he could have received his diploma from Plains High School. 

It was at this year's graduation ceremony that Patrick Cleveland received his long overdue diploma. 

Ten graduates received scholarships totaling over $123,000 from various organizations: Treasure State Scholarships, Rittenour Scholarship, Class Award, W.W Scott Memorial, Montana State Premier, MUS Honor Scholarship, Montana State Premier, Nep and Mary Ellen Lynch Scholarship, Stem/Healthcare Scholarship, Mountain American Elevate Scholarship, Clark Fork Elks Most Valuable, Montana Youth Serve Scholarship, Plains Drug Store, Blackfoot Communication Scholarship, Class of 1983 Gone Too Soon Scholarship, Ponemah Masonic Lodge, VFW, Jack Essler Trades Scholarship, Rocky Mountain Bank Scholarship, Mary Gertude Leavy LaPointe Scholarship, Northwest Montana United Way, Lilja Precision Rifle Barrels Inc. Scholarship, Kenny Marjerrison Memorial, George Wurm Memorial Scholarship, Kim Duane McNeil (Kimo) Memorial Scholarship, Gary’s Glass and Auto Body, Edjar French Scholarship, Clark Fork Valley Running Club, Plains Teacher’s Organization, Plains Booster Club Scholarship, Northwest  Montana Attendance Area Waiver-FVCC, Marian F. And Ivan L. O’Neil Endowed Scholarship and Mildred Hearst.

    Plains teacher Jaron Laws speaks at the Plains High School graduation ceremony. (Tracy Scott/Valley Press)
    Randy Garrison receives the Unsung Hero Award from Plains Superintendent Dr. Walsh. (Tracy Scott/Valley Press)
    The Plains High School graduating class performs the changing of the tassel. (Tracy Scott/Valley Press)
    Vietnam War veteran Patrick Cleveland receives his diploma during the Plains High School graduation ceremony. (Tracy Scott/Valley Press)
    Heather Allen, Montana VFW state junior vice commander, speaks about Memorial Day during the Plains High School graduation ceremony. (Tracy Scott/Valley Press)