COVER PHOTO: The 2020 Graduates of Augusta High School arrive for their graduation ceremony in true Augusta, Montana style, riding on horseback into the Augusta American Legion Rodeo Grounds. Photo by Lynn Kenyon/Sun Times photo
“Ninety percent of our lives lie in our reactions,” affirms Bradi Hill, Augusta’s 2020 Valedictorian. That pretty much describes a graduation amid Covid-19 times as four seniors and eight 8th graders sat in the fairgrounds, with proper distancing, reflecting on their unusual school year while looking ahead to the future amidst signs posted in the bleachers about staying safe.
They “reacted” to challenging times by riding into the grounds on horses and ended it with prohibited hugs and the sharing of roses. Hill tearfully thanked those who supported her, reflected on a recent mission trip where the kids who had only one meal a day still expressed joy and she gave her classmates a challenge “to have perspective and choose joy.”
When giving her speech, Salutatorian Jae Allen used entertaining anecdotes about each of the other Seniors. She joked about listening to Maclane Mills sing John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads (ad nauseam!) to sharing a deep friendship with Kristin Ellsworth and honoring Bradi Hill for her intensity on the basketball court. She called it the “Coronavirus Class of 2020” which she proclaims is “driven, determined and hardworking.”
Guidance Counselor Kathy Murphy acknowledged the dozens of scholarships awarded to the four seniors and other students. Scholarships were given in honor of and by the Oscar Kenck Foundation, Lee Carlbom Memorial, Will Weaver Honorary Scholarship, Doug Mills, Swanson Peltola, Carlbom Vocational, Elmer Tuomi Scholarship, John Fusaro Memorial, Larry Krone and Fred Scherer Memorial. The Augusta Chamber of Commerce, Pepsi, Western Bar, Sun River Electric, Three Rivers, The American Legion and Auxiliary #15, Latigo and Lace and Carroll College and an anonymous donor all contributed towards scholarships. All tallied, the total scholarship pot was well over $100K!
That brings us to teacher Susan Ford and her commencement speech encouraging the “fantastic foursome” to live a virtuous life. Ford chose love and trust, charity and responsibility as worthwhile virtues to develop. Ford had a heartfelt story about her father who once owned a café in Fairfield. When an apparent “bum” came in and asked for hot water then proceeded to mix in ketchup and crackers three times in one sitting, her father was furious, but after thinking about, thought better of himself and tried to chase down the man to feed him. He never found the man, but always pledged he would never let anyone go hungry around him again Charity. Joy. More than just words. They were in abundance around Augusta on Saturday, as generous scholarships were awarded, neighbors, friends and family took time out on a beautiful sunny day to acknowledge graduating seniors and the eight 8th graders caught up in the trials of a global pandemic, but all with noble pursuits ahead: a nurse, a veterinarian, an EMT and an attorney.
As Senior Bradi Hill also proclaimed, in her speech: “Cherish each moment” and “focus on the good.” These classy kids and all those who stand beside them are doing just that and hopefully these four, and all that come after them, often come back home along our country roads.