While the weather outside was gloomy, the mood inside Gins’ Gymnasium in Hill City was beaming as 40 Hill City High School seniors were eagerly waiting to become the next graduates of the school at the 98th commencement exercises of the Hill City School District.
The ceremony started off with a grand entrance of all the seniors lead by none other than Smokey Bear — Hill City’s mascot — as the Hill City High School band performed “Pomp and Circumstance.”
After an invocation was offered, Mike Hanson, Hill City School District superintendent, addressed the graduating class and thanked the parents, guardians, families and friends for all they did in helping the seniors get to where they are.
“We are all very proud of you,” Hanson said. “I know you all will do amazing things in the future.”
Half of the graduating class were recipients of the Regents Diploma, which meant they worked a harder course load in high school and, if they are graduated with a diploma, have instant admission into any South Dakota public university.
Hill City High School has celebrated many accomplishments of this graduating class, Hanson said.
“Because of their work in high school, they will leave with a sound work ethic,” he added. “Regardless of your future path, I wish you good luck.”
After the Regents Scholars were announced and the Hill City High School Choir performed “Already Home,” the salutatorian, Taleigh Adrian, addressed her fellow graduates.
“We wouldn’t be here, looking towards the future, without the support of our teachers, our coaches and our parents,” she said. “I know I speak not only for myself but for my classmates as well n saying you deeply touched our lives. From the smallest things you’ve done for us to the biggest things, each has made an impact on the people who have yet to come, and we are extremely grateful. Thank you.”
Her speech focused on the individuality of her fellow graduates, saying that her peers are more than just the hours they dedicated to their schoolwork — they will be defined by their passions.
She and her fellow graduates have plans to become teachers, lawyers, doctors, nurses and “everything in between.”
“We care deeply about more than about the subjects deemed most useful by society, and we are full of potential,” she said.
After Adrian spoke valedictorian Erica Houser addressed her fellow graduates. She started her speech by thanking her mother and father, her siblings, her teachers and the school administrators and custodians.
“With those out of the way, I am supposed to talk a little bit about high school,” Houser said.
This class, she said, is “quick-witted, quirky, loyal, illogical, intelligent, irreverent, unreasonable, excessive and, in short, flawed.”
She told anecdotes about some of her fellow classmates focusing on their individuality, competitiveness, tenacity and academic prowess.
“Each of us have our own stories from high school,” Houser said. “Our own memories and lessons we will carry with us from here. Each of us has accumulated a collection of imperfect moments filled with imperfect people that, taken together, sums up our lives. So, to my classmates, I would like to say congratulations and thank you for the brief, imperfect times that we were all a part of the Hill City 2019 class.”
Following Houser’s address was an address from United States Air Force Lt. Col. George Nichols, who is stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
Nichols previously spoke at the school during the Veterans Day ceremony in November and he was selected by the graduation committee to come back and be their commencement speaker.
“What a bittersweet day, and what an amazing feat, to have each of you culminate 18 years of experiences, losses, successes, only to find your way to this momentous occasion,” he said. “Almost half of you have known each other since kindergarten, and now you are all probably daydreaming about what’s next.”
Today, they celebrate a city and a school filled with excellence, pride and legacy along with the teachers, administrators, parents and custodians who helped the graduates get to where they are going.
And then there is the Hill City Class of 2019, he said.
“Forty strong, some pretty anxious young adults,” he said. “More simply put, another group of intelligent, beautiful and talented go-getters, future Hill City Ranger alumni who are ready to conquer the world.”
After his address, the graduates were awarded their diplomas.
This part of the ceremony was filled with cheers, air horns by some in the audience, smiles and embraces as the graduates flipped their tassels to the other side of their caps.
Todd Satter, Hill City High School principal, called each of the graduates name as Hanson and Dennis Krull, member of the Hill City School District Board of Education, awarded the graduates their diplomas.
Once all the senior had their diplomas in hand, Satter officially made them graduates of the school.
The graduates tossed their caps into the air as “I Gotta Feeling,” by the Black Eyed Peas, started playing in the gym.