Salute to the Classes of 2020
And the communities that raised them
Zoe Lee played all the sports— basketball, volleyball and she ran track at Sheridan High School. Her mom, Abbigail Lee, has been to at least one million games. “She’s like the involved mom who’s been involved in everything,” Sheridan Superintendent Mike Wetherbee said about Abbigail, who is currently the Booster Club President. “If your kid’s doing something, I kind of think you should be there,” Abbigail said.
Sheridan has had a tough time sports-wise, but Abbigail commended the school’s sportsmanship and good attitudes. “There’s a lot of lessons that can be learned from high school sports and winning is at the bottom of the list,” she said. Next school year, Zoe will move to Pullman, Wash. to attend Washington State University and study biochemistry with medical school ambitions. Medical school has been Zoe’s plan for most of high school, and Abbigail was impressed with WSU’s communication. Despite a student body of over 26,000, it felt comfortable to a family from a small town.
This graduation marks the beginning of Abbigail’s empty nest syndrome. “That is a thing for sure. I used to make fun of people for it,” she said, but is starting to realize how hard it hits. What is more, she appreciated having the Sheridan community involved in her daughter’s well-being. Someone was always watching her even if it was not Abbigail, though it sounded like Zoe did not need much supervision. “She’s a good kid. She’s like one of those girls that most people dream about,” Abbigail said.
Wyatt Fredson, Ennis High School graduate, also had a very involved high school career. He was busy with track, cross country, basketball, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, volunteering at church and performing in school plays even before he signed up for the Marines the day before his Senior year. “He was literally going to two nights a week for EMT class, one night a week for the Marines in Bozeman and then whatever school sport he had going on. So it was kind of crazy,” Nicole said.
“I’m so proud of him. His sophomore year my husband passed away, and so he lost his dad like four weeks into his school year and never skipped a beat,” she continued. Before heart surgery, Wyatt’s dad told him that should the worst happen, he wanted Wyatt to follow his dream of becoming a Marine and not feel pressured to stay in Ennis to care for his family.
“I’ve always felt like I needed to help people in some sort of way and serve my country, and I kind of have that calling for that. My great grandfather was a Marine and that also helped,” Wyatt said, his Marine aspirations beginning in the seventh grade.
Wyatt was supposed to leave for boot camp in San Diego at the end of June, but with coronavirus restrictions, his departure got pushed back to October. After boot camp, he will continue combat training in San Diego then travel to North Carolina for combat engineering education. “I feel bad for him that he doesn’t get to go at the end of June, but I’m grateful we get to spend more time with him,” Nicole said.
Harrison High School has four graduating Seniors this year—Kayley Christensen, Angela Cain, Carson Clark and Vern Homner. Andrea Christensen, Spanish, Art and Tech teacher for K-12, is also Kayley’s mother. Andrea was really looking forward to Kayley’s track season this spring. Last year, she made it to state with discus and she was ready to do the same again. “It was fun to see her excited about getting into the college she chose,” Andrea said.
Kayley will be attending Montana Tech in Butte to study radiology with the goal of becoming a radiology technician. She looked into schools in Kalispell and Billings, but decided to stay closer to home.
Parents and teachers sympathize with graduating students who are not getting the last year of high school they expected. Prom was canceled, Kayley did not get to place at State, Zoe did not get to compete at State for Future Farmers of America, banquet and award ceremonies were canceled, Wyatt’s boot camp was postponed, and graduation is going to look different than ever before. “We’re still going to do a small graduation at Harrison and they’ll be socially distanced on the stage, and then each of the families in the gym will be socially distanced,” Andrea said, adding her family was hosting a small barbecue after. Sheridan is crossing its fingers for good weather for a ceremony on the football field, and Abbigail is collaborating with some families to host a celebration at the fire hall.
“Their graduation won’t be normal, but it will be a graduation,” Abbigail said.
Even in a normal year without a pandemic, public education needs some type of closure. Thirteen years of schooling is the majority of a 17 or 18-year-old’s life. In Madison County communities, it does not take 13 years to learn every classmate’s name. “I think everybody realizes this was a pretty hard year for them,” Abbigail said.
Banks in Sheridan put up Senior pictures. A banner for each graduating Harrison Senior was displayed in front of the school. Ennis teachers threw assorted hats off their heads to honor their 2020 class. While it may be hard to count lucky stars right now, students, teachers and parents alike should take comfort in the places their graduates have roots. Not everywhere would go to such great efforts to make sure these kids understand how loved and cherished they are.