SPEARFISH — Saturday was a day that the Spearfish High School Class of 2020 had waited for, for a long, long time. Graduation Day.

The COVID—19 pandemic delayed the graduation from its traditional May timeframe, to about six weeks later.

Spearfish High School Principal Steve Morford said a traditional graduation ceremony was important and he would rather delay the ceremony than conduct a drive—through ceremony.

“This is a special day for our seniors and their families, and one we’ve waited a long time for,” Morford said.

This school year was disrupted on March 13 when Gov. Kristi Noem told schools to close to help stop the spread of the virus. They did not reopen, and students learned from their homes with online lessons.

“I am so grateful that we are able to gather here today to celebrated the culmination of a long journey for our graduates,” said Kirk Easton, superintendent of the district. “I would like to give my sincere apologies to our seniors for how this pandemic has negatively impacted your senior year. Whether it was the pandemic, rioting, civil unrest in our country, or just the darn hail, 2020 has certainly been a rough start. It would be easy for one to become a pessimist, but I ask you to remain optimistic about your future and strive to make a difference in the world. Our hard work and determination can overcome just about any obstacle in the world. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

Scott Odenbach, school board vice president, was this year’s speaker. He said he had the bulk of his speech written before the pandemic turned the world on its head.

“One of the craziest things about these times, the virus effects young people the least, but the measures we’ve taken in response to it have probably affected them the most,” Odenbach said. “Schools closed. Businesses where they could get jobs shuttered. Special events were cancelled. Especially for graduating seniors, they missed out on a lot of moments that we took for granted when we were seniors — sports, extra curricular activities, and all those fun times with friends we look forward to.”

He gave the students thoughts in which to succeed as they enter their next phase of life.

“Be self-directed,” he said. “Wherever you are, find something to do, and be a doer without being told. If you are working for somebody, which you will hopefully soon, … and you finish your job, don’t wait around for someone to tell you what to do.

Don’t wait for something happen. Make something happen. Because most of the time, if you don’t wait for something to happen, nothing will.”

He continued.

“Never be afraid to walk alone. In high school, you get used to doing everything with your friends,” Odenbach said. “But … in the world of work, you often have to walk into meetings and interview alone, take a test alone, study while everybody parties, alone, take a stand for something you believe in alone. Remember, it is better to walk alone than with the crowd going in the wrong direction.”

He gave them advice when looking for a job and quoted The Duke.

“Remember, you are not asking the employer for anything. You are offering to participate in a free exchange — your labor for money and benefits. You’re both bringing something to the table,” he said. “During that interview, you need to be humble, kind, and direct. But also remember you are also not the only one receiving the benefit from the exchange. I think this is best seen in the John Wayne movie “McLintock.”

In that movie, he said, a young man knocked Wayne to the ground for being told to ask for a job that he said he should have been grateful for, “being given a job.”

“Wayne’s response is classic,” Odenbach said.

“Gave? Boy, you’ve got it all wrong. I don’t give jobs, I hire men.”

“You mean you’re still hirin’ me? Well, yes, sir, I certainly deliver a fair day’s work.”

“And for that I’ll pay you a fair day’s wage. You won’t give me anything and I won’t give you anything. We both hold up our heads.”

“That’s how you should look at it, whether you are looking for a job or offering one to somebody else some day,” Odenbach said.

“Be confident. Remember, confidence isn’t knowing that they’ll like you. It’s knowing you’ll be OK even if they don’t,” he added.

Valedictorian Ryan Peldo and salutatorian Ciarra Schoon were honored. As was the Outstanding Teacher Award recipient Pat Gainey.

Class speaker Colter Huseby closed out the ceremony.

“Although this year wasn’t what we had expected, this class has overcome it all,” Huseby said. “We are sitting here today after many hurdles. Not just our senior year, but our whole entire lives. And it all started in kindergarten — when we all had absolutely no filter, contained way too much energy, and our moods were very sporadic, weren’t they?”  

“Elementary school formed strong bonds until the ‘cooties’ phase, followed by the awkward middle school years,” he said. “Then came high school becoming freshmen, battling to maintain appearances with braces, terrible haircuts, and acne. And for some of us unfortunate ones, all the above.”

“We fought many battles. With them, we lost some, and we won some,” Huseby said. “We cried together. We laughed together. We loved together, and we made it together. But ultimately, we came together and bonded, creating a never-ending friendship.

“This class entered the world in the stressful times of 9/11, experienced the War on Terror, and other devastating attacks on the United States,” he added. “We got through Hurricane Katrina, Winter Storm Atlas, and numerous other tragic natural disasters. … However, these complications did not set our class back. In fact, the class of 2020 has grown even stronger than before. But most importantly, we have become more compassionate toward one another, and have accomplished more than we have ever dreamed.”

This class, he said, has the ability to change their futures.

“Our class will embrace what we’ve endured and use it to better our futures. Some people will look around and see just another graduating class. But I see a lot more than that. I see a future community of surgeons, mathematicians, writers, teachers, engineers, and obviously the most superior of them all, pilots. The class of 2020 has lived through history that will shape our futures in more ways than one. Our class has the potential to continue pushing for what is right — to create a more peaceful and better society and advancing it to unprecedented heights.

“I would just like to say how proud I am of each and every one of you,” he added. “I am so happy to see you evolve into the people you have become and are becoming. And I am truly thankful that I can share my life experiences with all these graduates. I am honored to have grown up with such a fantastic group, and I am also sad to say farewell. You all have so much to offer this world. I have witnessed this first hand.”

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(2) comments


What considerations did the school district take regarding COVID? It doesn't look like social distancing or masks were required - were there any restrictions? Since the same school board is planning how the start of school will look, it would be helpful to know what was done in regards to this graduation. If nothing was considered, that makes me think nothing will be done for the start of the school year.


looks like quite a turnout -- I would have liked to hear a little about how the pandemic impacted the planning for this -- if all parents allowed their seniors to participate etc. -- reading this one would think the pandemic is over.

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