Herlong graduates look on as superintendent/ principal Dr. Christopher Bonn shares his experience with the class. Photo by Jake Hibbitts

Herlong High School’s graduation melts hearts

In a heartfelt and intimate evening, graduates of Herlong High School’s class of 2019 shared smiles, tears, roses and even a surprise visit from an overseas friend.

With a graduating class of a dozen, the proud few had the theater filled with the cheers and warmth of family and friends.

The class’s valedictorian, Jamie Nelson fired up the class with her speech and shared some humor saying, “The only thing standing between you and your diploma is me.”

Nelson shared her personal favorite of Maya Angelou’s 10 rules for success that read, “try to live your life in a way that you will not regret years of useless virtue, inertia and timidity. Take up the battle and take it … this is your life. This is your world.”

Nelson spoke of the future of the class, saying, “I no longer see my classmates as they were. I see them as they will be. I know that this theater holds the next decade’s great teachers, police officers, flight attendants, psychologists, nurses and much more.”

The class’s salutatorian, Michaela Duncan was pleased to call herself a part of a class that not only she called family, but that was, “independent, strong and determined.”

Duncan told that the experience of changes — both good and bad — throughout their educational experience at Herlong High taught the class how to adapt to constant changes in their lives and to “expect the unexpected.”

The class’s guest speaker for the ceremony was none other than Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Johnson of the United States Army and the current commander of the Sierra Army Depot.

Johnson, who was honored to speak at the occasion, reminded attendees that their graduation fell upon “D+1, the day after D-Day, 75 years ago,” that SIAD played a part in World War Two.

Johnson imparted advice for the graduates to take with them throughout their lives, “Be thankful you were born free,” and “never ever give up.”

Johnson shared the certainty of highs and lows throughout the rest of the graduates’ lives and even shared one of his low points.

“In the spring of ‘94 I was graduating high school, but just before that I broke my foot running track. A stress fracture. I graduated with a cast on. Before that I had earned an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy, but I couldn’t report at the end of June — like you’re supposed to — for a medical issue. I had to forego my scholarship. So luckily I didn’t decline an Army ROTC scholarship I also earned,” said Johnson. “That summer after high school was pretty hard. I had to submit medical waivers to just qualify.”

Being devastated for a few months, Johnson ended up at a university in Spokane Washington to major in mechanical engineering. His goal was to cut the traditional time for an engineering student by a year, ending with a GPA of 2.85 and sleep-deprived from his additional position with the ROTC.

Afterward, lead teacher Ms. Pop shared a compilation of comments, lovingly put together by their peers and staff.

With the class’ small size comes the benefit of a tradition that always brings tears to those in attendance: the presentation of roses.

Graduates hand out roses to those special to their journey through to high school while their thanks are read aloud to those who hold a special place in the graduates’ hearts.

During this presentation, music that could already make one cry was played softly as Dr. Bonn read aloud each of the graduates’ statements. Tears ensued.

Applause and an extra set of tissues were brought out when a surprise came for one student Julian Montano.

During the presentation of roses Miss Laughlin said, “Julian wanted to thank his big sister Bella, who couldn’t be here today, but Julian, we have a surprise. Bella is here.”

The crowd went wild with the cheering of the entire theater as Isabella Montano, who was stationed in Japan, made her way into the arms of her brother, embracing him.