Southern Wells graduates light each other’s candles during the candle lighting ceremony at graduation Sunday. (Photos by Devan Filchak)


As 67 Southern Wells seniors awaited each of their moments to walk across the stage to officially graduate, they received thoughtful words and advice of how to move forward from this impactful day in their personal histories. 

Superintendent Steve Darnell quoted Professor Dumbledore from “Harry Potter in the Chamber of Secrets” by saying, “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.”

He said it is a time of reflection for each graduate.

Taylor Lee addresses graduates before being announced as the valedictorian. (Photos by Devan Filchak)

“As we look forward, you are the future of our community, state, and our nation. You are destined for great things – your parents know this and we do too,” he said.  “As we look back, we thank you for being a blessing that once graced the halls of Southern Wells High School as a student.”

Linden Barcus, salutatorian, talked during her speech about how the students have changed over the years but they probably haven’t changed as much as they think. She then challenged students to decide where they want to end up but to also remain lifelong learners. 

“I hope you realize that this is not the end of your education. We continue to learn every day. We should want to continue learning,” she said. “We should be always seeking to improve, and we should want to be better every day.”

Southern Wells graduates turn their tassels to officially mark their graduation. Pictured in the front row are Sarah Bothast, class president; Linden Barcus, salutatorian; Taylor Lee, valedictorian; and Joseph McElhaney, class vice president. Go to the “On the Beat” blog to see a photo gallery from graduation. (Photos by Devan Filchak)

Before the next speech, the choir performed “A Million Dreams” by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

Valedictorian Taylor Lee spoke of making the right choices and it being up to each student to do just that. She challenged her fellow students to be the adults they know they can be. 

Sarah Bothast, right, hands fellow graduate Kirtlyn Noble a yellow rose, which is the class flower.

I have faith in humanity, in you, to become the best person you can be,” she said. “The real question is if you have the drive and courage to make that leap.”

The band then performed “Rampage” by Todd Stalter.

Principal Kati Todd shared some of her experience of working in northern Thailand for some time and how there were challenges, but not any that could not be overcome.

“You wouldn’t be sitting here in front of me today if you weren’t ready to face and even embrace the coming changes,” she said. “You are ready.”

Students were recognized for some academic achievements, including receiving scholarships from Dollars for Scholars and achieving either an Academic Honors Diploma, a Technical Honors Diploma or both. Certificates were given to 15 students who received a grade point average of 3.5 or higher. 

As students walked across the stage to receive the cases their diplomas would soon be in, they shook the hands of school board members and administration. Then Sarah Bothast, class president, handed each senior a yellow rose, which was the class flower. 

Southern Wells graduate Adam Durham shakes Principal Kati Todd’s hand as he makes his way across the stage. (Photo by Devan Filchak)

After graduates were seated, Todd pointed out that there is a tradition that each student hands a tiny something to the principal as they shook the principal’s hand. She laughed as she shared that each student handed her a miniature house from the game Monopoly, which poked fun at the fact that Todd lives in a tiny house. 

After graduates turned their tassels, Bothast shared words with her fellow classmates to not forget all of the memories Southern Wells has given them over their student careers. 

“Do not take for granted the assignments that were given and tests that we have taken. Think about the time spent and memories made with your FFA family and all of the competitions you have been a part of. 

“Remember the first bucket you scored in the dome, and the last game you played as a Raider. Graduates, remember every trial and tribulation that have brought us here because it is what lies behind the tassels, which now symbolically rest on the left side of our caps, and the diploma that has been placed in our hands,” she said. 

Graduates then joined in a circle around the seats they had just sat in and the lights were turned off in the Raiderdome for the candle lighting ceremony. 

They then walked out of the Raiderdome as official graduates to the song “Olympic Spirit March” by John Williams. The class colors were green and gold.