Grads sign off at FMHS

Boeding tells classmates to be rocks

Seniors with the FMHS Class of 2024 sing the school song during commencement exercises Saturday at Fort Madison High School. The district bestowed diplomas on 130 students Saturday.
Seniors with the FMHS Class of 2024 sing the school song during commencement exercises Saturday at Fort Madison High School. The district bestowed diplomas on 130 students Saturday.
PHoto by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

FORT MADISON – Board member Mio Santiago compared the graduates of the Fort Madison High School Class of 2024 to pencils.
In an analogy he said he found on the internet, Santiago told the 130 graduates that can they erase when mistakes are made, leave their mark, regularly get ground up to become sharper, and find the most important stuff inside.
In a clockwork, hour-long commencement ceremony at a packed Fort Madison High School, tassels were moved as were the emotions of parents, family, and friends of those wrapping up their high school careers as Bloodhounds.
Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater described the Class of 2024 as curious, scared, outspoken, timid, friendly, and most of all, an excited class that entered the halls of Fort Madison High School in the fall of 2020.
“Until just last week you have persevered, shown focus and effort, celebrated successes, accepted failures, challenged and supported each other, and made your way into this gym,” she said.
She said their next phase of life will be challenging but rewarding. They should lead with courage and kindness and advocate for themselves, while being passionate for others.
FMHS Co-Principal Patrick Lamb introduced valedictorian Leif Boeding who looked back four years ago when he started high school from his house at 11 a.m. on a laptop.
The pandemic had delayed the start of the school year and given the 2020 freshman class a unique opportunity.
“It seems that just yesterday we were navigating our way through Covid. Today, I want to share some words of wisdom that have been shared with me over the years. Essentially, I want convey to you to continue to be a rock,” Boeding said.
He said his family has been his rock and he challenged others to be a rock, but reminded his classmates that rocks come in all shapes and sizes and colors, but are solid in structure and stand the test of time.
“Be a rock. Believe in yourself, be ready and be prepared, be strong physically and mentally. Be different and adapt to changes.”
 Oliver Santiago, who spoke to the class as its class president, said  despite the pandemic, the seniors are still leaving the school better than they arrived.
“High school’s been quite rough. We’ve had our ups and downs, our good days and bad days, but through it all, we’ve grown and become stronger,” the younger Santiago said.
Santiago thanked the district for allowing the senior class to showcase their creativity and support changes in hallways students wanted to explore.
“My fellow graduates, in the words of Mr. Derek Doherty, ‘Leave it better than you found it’. These are words that have stuck with me throughout my high school career. I hope that this helps you leave the places you go better than you found it,” he said.
The elder Santiago stepped to the podium next and apologized to his son for the time warp he just experienced.
“If it seems like this is a flash forward 30 years, Oliver, this is what you have to look forward to, buddy.”
Mio Santiago reminded the class they lost their 8th grade year and started high school off campus while the nation navigated the Covid pandemic.
“You didn’t have any idea what you were getting into. It’s a wonder you turned out so well,” he said. “Most of you, I think, when you started your freshman year, were worried. We had no idea what your school would look like. We had no idea how education would look in the midst of a pandemic.”
He said the isolation created anxiety with not just the students, but with the district, as well. He said the four years have shown them they can handle whatever is put in front of them, saying they set the bar high for following classmates. He said the class earned more than $400,000 in scholarships.
“You’ve taken advantage of every opportunity this school could have provided. And, as a school, that’s all we can do,” he said.
He reminded them that, although their accomplishments are impressive, the day can’t be a pinnacle.
“Don’t let today be the highlight of your life. This is not a pinnacle. Don’t stop achieving. As I tell everyone in past years that I’ve handed a diploma to, do great things.”

Fort Madison High School, graduation, exercises, seniors, Bloodhounds, Crimson and Black, news, Pen city Current,


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