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'It definitely hasn’t been the easiest ride, but it has been the most memorable'

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | June 12, 2024 1:30 AM

COULEE CITY — Twenty-four Almira/Coulee-Hartline High School seniors received their diplomas at Saturday’s graduation ceremony at the Paul Lauzier Activity Center in Coulee City, celebrated by classmates, school faculty, family members and past ACH graduates.

After the soon-to-be graduates entered the high school gymnasium two-by-two to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” Senior Class President Max Horrell opened the ceremony with a welcoming speech.

“We push the limits and go the extra mile, even if it means learning a few tough lessons along the way,” Horrell said. “But don’t get us wrong, we’re not nervous; we’re a class that thrives on confidence, ready to take on any situation with a can-do attitude. Whether it’s in the classroom, on the field or behind the wheel, the class of 2024 knows how to adapt.”

ACH’s trio of valedictorians — Jaxon Baergen, Kayleigh Elder and Beth Okamoto – gave a collective speech following Horrell’s welcome.

The trio took a journey down memory lane for each year at Almira/Coulee-Hartline High School, from beginning during online learning to learning how to drive, and later becoming upperclassmen.

“I know you might be thinking — ‘Three valedictorians, really?’ — but I think this is another testament to the incredible staff and community we have surrounding us at ACH,” Elder said. 

“You can look back over the years, and the majority of these speeches include something about how senior year goes by super fast, and I thought this was just a little cliche thing,” Okamoto said. “Come to find out, it really does feel like just yesterday I was welcoming the freshmen with Krispy Kreme donuts.”

“From furthering our edition to serving our country, from pursuing apprenticeship to entering job corps, from going straight to the workforce to playing college volleyball, no matter how different all of our walks of life will be, one preamble to our future success will forever be the same — the incredible impact of this amazing school and community left on each and every one of us,” Baergen said. 

Following the class speakers was recognition of Associated Student Body members, class officers, those joining the military and those in Running Start programs, 38 50-year graduates from Almira, Coulee City and Hartline were also honored at the graduation ceremony.

Salutatorian Everett Wood used his speech to speak on what success means to him.

“When we think of success, we often picture wealth, high-size jobs, or luxurious possessions,” Wood said. “Society tends to measure success by the size of our bank accounts or the number of awards we’ve received. However, standing here today I am reminded that success is far more profound than material wealth. In all reality, success can be whatever you want it to be. You can set the bar as high as you want, and you can pick from a number of different bars to set.”

ACH graduates who received scholarships were recognized one by one at the graduation ceremony, including several college-bound students who received numerous scholarships. After diplomas were handed out and the class composite was handed to 2024-25 ASB President Emma Whitaker, Senior Class ASB Representative Shaina Beal took the podium for a farewell speech.

“Despite our paths looking different as we take this next step, don’t be ashamed of it and enjoy the now as much as you can while we are young,” Beal said. “Today is our day; we have accomplished so many things, and today is our day to acknowledge all of our hard work and success. It definitely hasn’t been the easiest ride, but it has been the most memorable.”

Ian Bivona may be reached at ibivona@columbiabasinherald.com.

    The Almira/Coulee-Hartline graduating class tosses their caps into the air following Saturday’s ceremony.
 
 
    Almira/Coulee-Hartline’s trio of valedictorians – Kayleigh Elder, right, Jaxon Baergen, center, and Beth Okamoto, left, give their collective speech at Saturday’s graduation ceremony.
 
 
    The Almira/Coulee-Hartline class of 2024 turns their tassels at Saturday’s graduation ceremony in Coulee City.
 
 
    Almira/Coulee-Hartline seniors line up two-by-two for the processional to begin Saturday’s graduation ceremony.
 
 
    Almira/Coulee-Hartline Senior Class President Max Horrell opens Saturday’s graduation ceremony with a welcome speech.
 
 
    A board listing the future destinations of Almira/Coulee-Hartline graduates stands outside the gymnasium where Saturday’s graduation ceremony was held.
 
 
    Fifty-year graduates from Almira, Coulee City and Hartline were recognized during Saturday’s ACH High School graduation ceremony.