Helena High School holds commencement ceremony for 2020 seniors

By NATHAN HOWELL | Special to the Reporter

HELENA – The HHS football stadium filled with friends and family Tuesday, June 2, to celebrate the class of 2020 on their achievement of finishing high school and earning their diplomas.

Like many other schools, the students were forced to miss out on several important milestones during their final year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was even some uncertainty as to whether this ceremony would happen, however, with safety guidelines in place the in-person ceremony was able to move forward.

Helena Mayor Mark Hall opened the commencement by reminding the students of the power of dreaming, and how they can shape the future.

“Wow. What a tremendous sight. This field was kind of a dream, and now I’m looking at the dreamers. This stadium is full of dreamers. It’s tremendous,” Hall said. “This field is full of dreamers who will no doubt make their dreams become reality. Dreams to fulfill lifelong goals. Dreams of hope, dreams of success, dreams of curing disease, eradicating prejudices and ending racism. Follow your dreams, it’s your destiny. Dream big and find a way to make those dreams come true. “

Salutatorian Luke Dixon addressed the complicated nature of the end of their journey through school, but reminded his classmates to look forward.

“The more I think about our time at Helena High School, the more I begin to realize it was much like a rollercoaster,” he said. “It started slow and exciting. However, I quickly began to realize this ride had its fair share of turns, bumps, jerks, loops and steep hills that we had to ascend just to get to the next ride.

“This ride may have started out slow, but has come to an end faster than we all expected. This rollercoaster ended in a way that none us wanted or expected. Despite losing the final nine weeks of high school, I am very grateful we were able to gather one last time to rejoice in our success and accomplishments.”

The class of 2020 was unique in that it featured two valedictorians, who were Christian Vanzant and Abigail Ford. Both graduates spent their time focusing on overcoming the struggles they have faced and looking forward to the future.

“It’s hard to say with any certainty what the future holds for any of us,” Vanzant began. “In fact, I’m sure that many of you have had your own individual concerns about your future. You may be scared that you won’t be good enough, strong enough, smart enough to find success in your future.  But honestly, I think if you can successfully navigate the Helena High School website you’ve got this in the bag.”

Ford took advantage of her time to help her fellow seniors know they will get through this time of tragedy.

“We were born into tragedy and are graduating and ending our childhood amid tragedy,” Ford said. “We know hardship, we know struggle, we know sacrifice. However, we also know resilience. This acquired strength powers our future. Let your disasters encourage you to persevere, to withstand the worst. Allow these experiences to shape you into a stronger, smarter and kinder human being.”

This year’s senior class featured 313 graduates and was part of a class that helped make Helena High School into the 16th best public high school in the state.