CLARK FORK — When KC MacDonald prepared to step on stage to give his guest speech to the Clark Fork High School Class of 2021 during Wednesday’s graduation ceremony, he needed some assistance.
Soon-to-be-graduate Wyatt Kayser jumped out his chair and ran over to help MacDonald, who teaches leadership and social studies at CFHS. The help wasn’t actually needed, but in MacDonald’s eyes it was a way for Kayser to repay his debt for that one time when he carried the grad 200 yards on his shoulder during a school field trip.
“We’re even,” MacDonald said.
The gleaming MacDonald then proceeded to say that it was the happiest day of his life because the night before the ceremony he discovered that a famous reality TV show — “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” — was coming to an unfortunate end.
“Their reign of terror is almost over,” he exclaimed.
The opening to MacDonald’s speech carried on the joyous, humor-filled tone the evening had as the school honored its 20 graduates.
Unlike years past, the ceremony took place on the high school football field, instead of inside the gym. Principal Phil Kemink believes it’s the first time the celebration has been held on the field, and the setting provided the perfect backdrop for a special night.
Before recognizing the students graduating with honors, Kemink made sure to remind the class to always stay in contact and never be afraid to reach out.
Bryce Beason, Reba Decker and Wesley Simko all received cords for graduating with high honors, as did Elizabeth Holborn, who graduated with honors.
Decker, the salutatorian, then stepped up to address her classmates. She said all of our lives are filled with stories and she asked her fellow grads to think of their lives through the classic story plot of a hero’s journey.
Decker broke down all the steps of the hero’s journey English teacher Rebecca Palmer taught her, but then mentioned another key element that wasn’t on her cheat sheet — a mentor.
She said the mentor is an important piece to any story and the grads each have to discover who that is in their lives.
Decker said high school is the end of a chapter, but only the beginning of the graduates’ stories.
“We are about to enter the next chapter and here’s the good news, we are the ones that get to write it,” she said.
She ended her speech by asking her classmates what their story was going to be.
“We might not be in complete control of what happens to us in our story, but we get to control how we deal with it,” she said.
Simko, the valedictorian, opened his remarks by admitting his distaste for public speaking.
“As those of you who know me can verify,” he said, “I’m not great at speaking unless I’m arguing, so I’ve decided to present an argument.”
His argument — that the most important piece of us is not the past.
“The past is nothing in comparison to something we all share — hope in the future,” he said.
But he admitted hope can be hard to hold onto in the face of fear. Deep down, Simko said, he believes everyone has three fears: Not knowing ourselves, living but not feeling and, of course, public speaking.
To mitigate those fears, Simko said we connect our identities to a group or place, in this case, Clark Fork.
“I can’t think of a better group or place to have been connected to these past years, but having grown up here, it’s hard to move on,” he said. “It’s difficult to imagine that what we have experienced thus far is not all there is to our lives or identities.”
Simko said life has its ups and downs and not every day will go as planned, and that’s all right as long as the members of the class of 2021 keep their enthusiasm and genuinity.
The challenges of the real world can be daunting, Simko told his fellow graduates to stay true to themselves.
“I believe that the best way to ensure your future is worthwhile is to embrace it for the unpredictable adventure that it is,” he said. “ … I’m confident that all of you will go on to conquer your fears in incredible ways so remember to dream, remember to feel and if someone asks you to give a speech, just say no.”
When the beloved Mr. MacDonald got to the mic, all the graduates knew they were in for a wild ride filled with laughter and sarcasm.
Right off the bat, he told the graduates to turn around their chairs so he could see all their faces. He started off by handing Brice Nickel a piece of schoolwork that had been collecting dust in his room for four years. Then he started a barrage of tossing tennis ball after tennis ball at Simko, who was a star on the tennis court for CFHS.
After that, MacDonald took a trip down memory lane. From poor golf cart driving to watch or die Greek mythology videos to getting a picture of a freshly caught bass on a remote learning day, the class of 2021 gave him all that and much more.
He said the class broke three school records — most tardees, most detentions and the most “Was that due today?”
Utilizing his 105 years of wisdom, MacDonald provided some inspiration to the graduates through a country song about fishing.
“The lesson is not all things are going to go our way, but we just keep on casting,” he said.
Chris Wade stepped on stage to perform a special song that MacDonald claimed he and the senior had been working on for six months. They both donned cowboy hats as they sang a questionable graduation remix of the “Happy Birthday to You” song.
After all the fun, MacDonald got down to business and told the class they are now officially CFHS alumni. Then he dumped a cardboard box of tennis balls at the feet of the graduates.
“You will forever be a Wampus Cat,” he said. “Now go out to this great big world and represent.”
Dylan Greene can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @DylanDailyBee.