FCHS Class of 2019 graduates reflect on success, prepare for future
Fort Calhoun High School (FCHS) graduate Megan Rupp plucked a steady bass line on her guitar while the FCHS concert choir sang the rising, falling, then rising again melody of “I Lived” mid-way through the 2019 graduation ceremony in the gym Saturday.
“You could say our high school days started out in chaos,” valedictorian Avery McKennan said in her speech, referencing the temporary classrooms the class began their high school careers in due to renovations.
“Those were the days, and they have flown by,” she said.
Salutatorian Julie Klemm said the class showed perseverance throughout their high school careers.
“We all worked so hard inside and outside the classroom,” she said. “Though we have all reached the point of exhaustion, and even shed a few tears along the way, we still made it here.”
The FCHS Class of 2019 made it to graduation as a class of firsts, achievements and records.
The graduates were part of the first class in nearly 10 years to get four straight “one” ratings at the state marching competition, said valedictorian Zoe Fickbohm, and the first class in seven years to bring home a quiz bowl conference championship. Some students are the first of their families to graduate from FCHS. Multiple athletic records were also set, and state honors received in four years.
Counselor Micki Hernandez recognized numerous students for their academic, athletic and career achievements.
Twenty of the 56 students graduated with honors, or GPAs above 3.5. Eight students started on their future careers through career academies. Three students are fire cadets, two of whom will participate in live-in firefighter programs. One student will intern at the Henry Doorly Zoo before studying marine biology in California, one student was selected for the University of Nebraska Teacher Academy Scholarship, another student will study biochemistry and pre-med in California, while two others have begun an apprenticeship and an internship in plumbing and diesel mechanics. Five others have enlisted in the military.
“We have award-winning musicians, artists, authors and athletes,” Hernandez said. “This year, along with a musician and artists who plan to continue on at the college level, we have graduates who will be continuing their athletic endeavors in softball, dance, men’s golf and cross country and track and field.”
Hernandez said there is one other achievement set that overshadows every previous graduating class and which every class after will chase. A record 38 students were offered post-secondary scholarships totaling over $2.7 million.
Supt. Don Johnson said the class of 2019 has diverse personalities and talents. He had school board members, teachers, other school staff members, parents and grandparents stand to recognize them for helping the students along the way.
“It takes a fort to raise and educate a child,” he said.
Klemm, McKennan, Fickbohm and valedictorian Taya Skelton also recognized the support from teachers, families and the community for helping the students through the years. The four students addressed their classmates, too, in speeches that reminisced on their time in Fort Calhoun while looking forward to the future.
In 144 weeks, 720 days and 5,040 hours of high school, Klemm, McKennan, Fickbohm and Skelton said the graduates shared laughs, took a lot of Snaps, bonded over chips and queso and finished a lot school work at the last minute. The class also shared success, which leaves no doubt about what’s ahead, McKennan said.
“The real world is ahead of us, and it will change us,” she said. “But I know that our class is full of individuals ready to pursue their own successful futures.”
Before they set off on those futures, Johnson and Principal Jerry Green suggested a few tips for the students. Green told the class to take a few lessons with them: Be grateful, happiness is their responsibility, choose friends wisely and make a difference. Johnson said life won’t always be easy and encouraged students to embrace diversity and to have empathy, self-control, integrity and grit.
“Grit is that ‘extra something’ that separates the most successful people from the rest,” he said, quoting from Travis Bradberry’s book “Emotional Intelligence.” “It’s the passion, perseverance and stamina that we must channel in order to stick with our dreams until they become reality.”
Skelton also advised her classmates before they turned their tassels.
“Remember your roots,” she said. “This town and these people are a huge part of your life.”