Jun 10, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff WriterTwenty-three Wyoming Indian High School seniors graduated May 20 in a ceremony that included encouragement from State Superintendent of Public Instruct-ion Cindy Hill.
The high school's gym was split in half with a divider, a stage set up in the middle and family and friends gathered on the bleachers and in chairs on the floor to honor the graduates.
The seniors did not wear graduation robes but many wore traditional American Indian attire. Behind each of their seats were plastic containers for gifts to be placed.
After an opening song by the high school's drum group and a prayer by Nelson White, principal Phil Garhart spoke to the seniors.
He told a story of thousands of starfish washed upon a shore, and a young boy who tried throwing them back into the ocean one by one.
"You can't possibly save enough to make a difference," Garhart quoted a man in the story saying to the boy.
The boy, picking up another threw it back in and said that it made it difference to that one.
"You've made a difference to me," Garhart told the graduates. "You can go out and make a difference. Thank you for making a difference in my life."
Salutatorian Mikala Summer SunRhodes said that her class was leaving the school with great knowledge, memories and friendships.
"This day is truly a celebration," she said, calling it the beginning of "a new era as proud, young Indian people."
Both she and valedictorian Anneshia Hill encouraged their classmates to continue to take education seriously.
"Congratulations on a job well done," Hill said.
Fremont County School District 14 superintendent Michelle Hoffman then introduced the state superintendent, saying that when Hill was elected in 2010, Hoffman urged her to attend WIHS's graduation.
Hill began by quoting the class's motto: "To think only of the best, to work for the best and expect only the best."
She said Hoffman had told her of the class's dedication to serving others.
"Serve what you love," Hill said. "If you love your community, you will serve your community."
She went on to say that if they love only themselves, they will serve only themselves.
"I encourage you to serve with a fierce heart," Hill continued, urging them to never give up and to grow wise.
"You are smarter than you think. You are braver than you believe. And you are stronger than you realize," Hill said.
The guest speaker for the ceremony was Luke Martinez, an American Indian who plays basketball for the University of Wyoming.
Martinez urged the graduates to believe in themselves and to pursue what they want in life.
"Many said I couldn't make it," he said. "But here I am. I had a choice to listen to those people."
He told them to not be discouraged by obstacles that will inevitably get in the way and challenged them to keep moving forward.
"If I was capable, then you are too," he said.
Between his speech and the conferring of the diplomas, a video slideshow of the graduates was shown. Applause and cheers were given for each name, giggles and smiles accompanying the photos of their classmates at a much younger age.
Scholarships were announced, and other recognitions were given.
As the seniors crossed the stage, each was handed a laptop computer.
After being given his diploma, computer and having been congratulated by Hill, one senior whispered to himself onstage, "This is awesome."
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