“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.” (Henry David Thoreau) was the theme for the Bear Lake School District Class of 2021 Graduation Commencement held May 27, 2021, at the Paris Tabernacle.
Prior to commencement, loved ones and friends rushed into the Tabernacle with anticipation. The upper mezzanine, with mostly students from the high school, filled with enthusiasm and energy as they waited to watch their friends and those they have grown to love march in cap and gown into the risers and receive their diplomas. Families and loved ones filled the lower seats, excitedly squeezing in tightly as they waited breathlessly for their sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters to fulfill their dreams and graduate that night.
The ceremony proceeded at 7 p.m., and Shelly Wallentine offered prelude music. Everyone arose from their seats as the graduate processional began and watched as they climbed to the risers one by one in their blue and white caps and gowns.
Principal Luke Kelsey welcomed the graduates and everyone attending. The opening prayer was given by Chance Ochsenbein, and the National Anthem was sung magnificently by Jazlyn Farmer while the crowd stood with their hands warmly on their hearts.
After everyone was seated, Lydia Johnson introduced the first speaker which was the Senior Class President, Emma Park. Emma spoke on what a miraculous year it had been to be a senior. Yes, they had missed out on some things due to COVID, they had lost a classmate, and experienced some things they had never imagined, but they had also learned to see things in a different light because of those things. They had also experienced other things as well. She said, they had been able to vote for a President of the United States, they had gone to State competition, they had seen Principal Kelsey dressed as Elvis, and they had gone to their senior prom, as well as other things. They had made the most of their year, and she felt they were made for this year. They had shown what it takes. She told the graduates to remember they are Bear Lake Strong!
At that point, Tylinn Hennick introduced the Student Body President, Gabe Hillier. Gabe thanked the teachers and all who had sacrificed to get him to where he is today. He then spoke to the Class of 2021 who he had known most of his life. He said those years had been the best of his life and those memories were the best. He told his class to never forget their dreams. He said they have been tested time and time again as a class, but he believes they have the ability to do whatever they want. He believes they are a chosen generation and can stand up to anything. He quoted several people by saying, “Dream big and go achieve,” “Go out and mature,” and “Please live life to the fullest.”
Then Hallie Skinner introduced Halsey Grose, Valedictorian, who said she appreciates her teachers’ support and advice and that she has gratitude for her friends. She talked about how everyone has their differences but at the same time, similarities. No one is on the same track, but they are part of each other’s experiences. She told the graduates she hopes they will focus on their similarities and that their memories will all be incredible; that’s what makes them Bear Lake Strong.
Lastly, McKenna Saunders introduced the Salutatorian, Hailey Roberts. Hailey spoke about perfectionism and how she used to be afraid to “step up to the task.” She was always afraid she was going to let people down and she “didn’t want to go there.” Finally, she was able to stand in front of people, and finally she had academic tenacity. She asked, “Will I ever be able to deal with perfectionist ideals? Maybe not. But I will be ok.” She said that during her time in school she and the students have learned to strive for “their” perfection, and that’s what matters. She quoted Vince Lombardi in saying “………if we change perfection, we can catch excellence.”
At this point, there was a beautiful trio with guitar accompaniment by Keaton Farmer, Chance Ochsenbein, Hailey Roberts, and Courtney Wells called “The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me."
Cameron Crane, school counselor, then read the names of the honor graduates and they all stood up. He also read the list of scholarships that were given out stating that the school broke a scholarship record this year with a total of $1,664,356.
Michael Wilding, Athletic Director, read the names for the citizenship awards, which he said are the only non-academic awards given out. This year those awards were given to Hailey Mae Roberts and Sammuel Wallentine.
At this point, a special honorary diploma was given to Traedon McPherson’s family and they came to the stand to accept the diploma from Coach Wilding, Cameron Crane, and the rest of the faculty who were on the stand. It was a heart-wrenching moment and many tears were shed. People and students alike loved Traedon and still hold him, as well as his family, dear to their hearts.
Then the speeches and awards came to a close and Principal Luke Kelsey announced the presentation of the graduates. Kendall Roberts, Board of Trustees, announced acceptance of the graduates.
Dawson Bingham, Jared Hillier, and Paul Kucharek, as well as Denice Gillies and Colette Oxborrow of the Clover Creek School, announced the graduates, and members of the School Board presented the diplomas and took pictures with each one. Each graduate put a lei around Principal Kelsey’s neck as they shook hands with everyone on the stand and accepted their well-deserved diploma. It was a proud moment and clapping and cheering rang out from the audience below.
Once the diplomas were all handed out, Shanyce Peterson announced the Presentation of Stoles. In the past, each graduate would stand and announce who they were giving their stole to and why. But this year, they were told to go down into the audience, all at once, and give their stoles to the person they were meant for.
Matthew Hammond gave the closing prayer.
The graduates were then acknowledged as tassels were moved to the left side of caps. All of a sudden, blue and white and tassels were flying through the air! Cheering and clapping rang through the building! Freedom at last!
The heat and stuffiness of the building erupted onto the grounds outside where families and friends posed for photo shoots in the cool evening air. Memories were made that night as photographs were taken that will last a lifetime. Laughter was heard and tears were shed as moms hugged everyone and dads shook hands with (or maybe hugged) their sons and hugged their daughters.
Bear Lake as a community wants to congratulate the Class of 2021. You made it through the year, even with COVID-19 still hanging on! And, as your theme states, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.”