City schools graduate 147 on Sunday

Fort Madison seniors Kaylie McFadden and Jakob McGowan move their tassels as part of graduation ceremonies at FMHS Sunday afternoon. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

FMHS sends 128 across the stage, while HTC graduates 19


FORT MADISON – It was a day of speeches, hugs, laughter, and tears, and, in a span of about 100 minutes, 147 Fort Madison students lifted a tassel, signifying the end of an early chapter at two separate commencement exercises.

At Holy Trinity Catholic, 19 students received diplomas in a short ceremony at Shottenkirk gymnasium following a baccalaureate earlier in the day where the school’s salutatorians, Kassi Randolph and Jack Malinksi, gave speeches to parents and guests.

But it was senior Valedictorian Mitchell Pothitakis who allegedly threw out the script and told his classmates to be a Kanye (West) and not a Kim (Kardashian).

Nineteen seniors at Holy Trinity Catholic throw their mortarboards into the air at the traditional class picture at the flagpole at HTC High School in Fort Madison. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

Pothitakis said he prepared a speech that had been approved by the administration, but said a bit tongue-in-cheek that he didn’t like that speech. And proceeded to crinkle it up and pitch it over his left shoulder.

“I want my voice to be heard,” he said, and pushed the pros of a Kanye West, saying if Kim Kardashian had gone to a school like Holy Trinity, she would have been more receptive to West’s – direction.

He said he really wanted to focus on politics, gas prices, the coronavirus, the Biden Administration, Supreme Court decisions, who really killed Nicole Brown Simpson, but he pushed the Team Kanye proposition and then thanked his parents, teachers, HTC staff, and fellow classmates.

He talked about the value of a small school atmosphere and the support that is special to small classes and individual attention. The volunteer efforts and student support of all extra curriculars is especially poignant in smaller schools.

HTC Senior Tessa Gendron welcomes the Class of 2022 Sunday afternoon at HTC. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“As you head out into the world, whether it’s college or work, don’t be a Kim, be a Kanye.”

Teacher Kevin Barnes was the selected speaker for the class of 2022. Barnes said being a Language Arts teacher at the school has given him a unique perspective on each of them.

“Call me, beep me, if you want to meet me. We’ll all be here. Young men and women of the Class of ’22 – the world awaits you. Go forward – make it your own. It is now up to you.”

HTC Principal Craig Huebner said graduations are the showcase of years of hard work.

“Graduation is the actualization of goals attained and the acknowledgement of successes achieved. It’s only fitting today we commemorate the road we’ve traveled together the last few years,” Huebner said.

He said the Class of 2022 has set a high bar for classes to follow.

“You are true Crusaders and you have made this year a special one.”

At the Hound Dome, Dr. Erin Slater told the 128 student graduates they’ve earned the right to be there, to be proud, and to be thankful to those who helped get them there.

“And not just this year. And not just the last four years at FMHS. They’ve been in your corner reminding you that you can do whatever you desire to do. That doesn’t change in the next few minutes when you walk across this stage, or when you move your tassel. But what’s next?”

Slater said if “Next” is college or the armed forces, technical schools or training programs, the pathways always start with a purpose and a goal.

A Fort Madison senior heading to the University of Iowa listens to FMHS Principal Greg Smith give his final address to seniors of the Class of 2022. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“You’ve earned that right with hard work and dedication. So continue to set goals for yourself. Continue to surround yourself with those that will continue to help you and support you.”

Senior class president Tyler Horn said the Class of 2022 should be proud of itself and the great things that have been accomplished.

“All of those things happened this year. There are so many talented people in this graduating class. Our senior year is something we will look back on. I cannot wait to see where all of you end up after you leave this building today.”

Dianne Hope, FMSCD board president, thanked the broad range of families and guardians who helped bring the 128 students to the pinnacle of their high school careers.

“To watch the faces of our students and families just makes it one of the very best days of the year,” Hope said.

“When your name’s called, that’s your moment. You strut yourself across this stage and get all the applause you can get. Because you won’t remember the speakers, you’ll remember the folks you sat with. That’s the best part here today.”

Hope said whatever the future holds, the students should always look back to Fort Madison and Lee County for support and opportunity.

“I’ve had the privilege of handing out so many diplomas and I have that privilege again today,” Hope said. “Go and continue your experiences and gain your knowledge, but some day come back to Lee County. We want you, we need you, and we’re looking forward to seeing you again.

Principal Greg Smith, delivering his final address as FMHS principal, told the students to be selfish.

“Don’t settle. Be selfish. Be you. You can’t do life alone. Listen. Say “Yes”. Live the moment. Be present. Play with people who have your back and make good choices early and often,” he said.

“You won’t get very far in life based on what you already know. You’re going to advance in life by what you learn after you leave here.

“Remember, it’s what you learn after you know it all, that counts.”

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