Farewell, senior Wildcats

Jason Ferguson

Life is messy. Life is bumpy. Life unfolds more than one picture or story or video clip at a time. Life, Hermosa School physical education teacher Casey Trandem told the Custer High School graduating Class of 2023, is about “way more than taking 82 pictures of our own face.”
Trandem was one of two guest speakers at last Saturday’s graduation ceremony, where 76 Custer High School graduates received their diplomas.
“Most graduation speeches focus on all you have accomplished, challenges coming your way the next couple of years—and those things are certainly true,” Trandem said. “The decisions you make in the coming months will have an impact on your life you can’t even imagine now.”
Trandem told the graduates to make deliberate decisions and deliberate choices about the people in their lives.
“Find people worth knowing. Don’t rush into things and be a person worth being around for the long haul,” he said.
Most importantly, Trandem said, is to live a life of gratitude.
“Gratitude is a quality or feeling of being thankful, being grateful for every season of life, and not being completely obsessed by what you don’t have, what you don’t have yet or what you never have,” he said. “If you work at it, it’s possible.”
Trandem told the class learning how to be thankful will keep them grounded, focused and in the moment.
“Bad things will happen. It means being able to look past it and see the other side of it,” he said. “It means trying to look for the sunshine in a bad situation and being thankful for the things in your life that are going well
“Gratitude isn’t just a word; it’s a way of life, and it’s actually a great way of life. It’s what I wish most for you all.”
The other faculty speaker was English teacher Sydney Hickman, who told the class not to be sad this portion of their lives is over, because it’s not.
“There is merely a chapter in your  book of life that is coming to a close,” she said. “Each of you is about to begin the next chapter of your life and venture out into the real world.
“I won’t sugar coat it for you. It is hard, and it is scary—but it is thrilling and exciting.”
Hickman told the group life will kick them while they’re down, before quoting John 13:7: “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
“This line is applicable to everything you will face from this day forward,” she said. “You can’t control every situation, but you can control how you react in that moment.”
Hickman also told the class that it’s OK to fail, and the only way to build themselves into a better version, or the best version of themselves, is to fail.
“Do not fear the thought of failing. Embrace it,” she said. “Through failure comes growth.”
The class also heard from salutatorian Denali Rusch, who related high school to chapters in a book, adding the class is on a journey toward becoming a more complete person.
“Some chapters are sad, some are happy and some are exciting,” she said. “But if you never turn the page, you’ll never know what the next chapter has in store for you.”
Rusch said the fingerprints will never fade from the pages of their stories, and that she is grateful for those who have shared this chapter of life with her.
“It’s my hope you will remember the fingerprints,” she said. “I hope you will carry them with you as you move to the next chapter of stepping out into the world. Here’s to writing the next chapter and waiting to revisit each other’s stories again.”
Class valedictorian Caylee Dennis said she knew she wanted to give a graduation speech since elementary school, but didn’t want to give an inspirational “TED Talk.”
Even though she has only been in Custer a short time, she said, she has formed some of the most important relationships of her life.
“I could not have asked for a better group of people to walk this stage with today,” she said. “I’m sure we’re all going to move on to do great things. Go ’Cats.”

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