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Fort Logan’s final graduating class says goodbye

STANFORD — The typical words of encouragement for graduates about embracing change and looking forward to the future took on a broader meaning Thursday evening as school officials, family and friends celebrated the final graduating class of Fort Logan School.

Nine graduates received their diplomas Thursday at the Stuart Underwood Auditorium. The class is the last graduating class at Fort Logan, as the Lincoln County School District finalizes the merging of Fort Logan and Lincoln County High School next school year.

Acting principal Stuart Underwood welcomed graduates and guests before turning the program over to speaker and former principal Scott Montgomery. Montgomery served as principal at Fort Logan from when it first opened its doors in 1997 to last year.

“There are bets that I might cry tonight,” said Montgomery. “I’ve cried many times during the last 21 years but I’m not going to cry tonight. It’s truly my honor to have been invited back to talk to you all tonight. For many years, my heart was in this school.”

Montgomery began his speech to the Fort Logan graduates — Alexander Jayce Coffman, Cayla Jean Culbertson, Morgan Carter Miller, Danielle Jay Lynn Rogers, Kendra Carolyn Cheyenne Smith, Hannah Nicole Snow, Alexia Shay Witt, Anastasia Leona Witt and Dallas Lee Worley — with a quote from World War II Admiral William Halsey: “There are no great people in this world, only great challenges ordinary people rise to meet.”

“Hopefully by the end of my 45-minute speech you will realize there’s a lot of truth to that,” he said with a laugh.

Montgomery did not go 45 minutes in his speech, but he did take the time to tell the graduates to meet challenges head on.

“You faced many challenges to get here tonight and you will continue to face challenges as you go out into what we refer to as the ‘real world,’” he said. “You have the power to change and to determine what trajectory (rise or fall) you are going to go. Are you going to rise? Yes. Yes, you are.”

“You had a challenge of completing high school and you met that. And I’m so proud of each of you. I’m just overcome, really, with pride knowing that you are ready to move on and face that next step in life. That gives me great pride and honor to have been a small part of that process along the way.”

Montgomery acknowledged that all the challenges that lie ahead in life won’t be easy, but encouraged the graduates to always face the nay-sayers.

“We were at the bottom as far as drop-out rate when the vision of Fort Logan came along. It was designed for those at risk of dropping out or that had dropped out for whatever reasons. And people were nay-saying,” he said. “It took some doing to convince the powers that be that it was worth doing. It took some time for people to change how they saw the people at Fort Logan. We went from near the bottom to the upper 10 percent in graduation rate in five years and that was largely a part of Fort Logan and you.”

Kendra Carolyn Cheyenne Smith and Morgan Carter Miller gave commencement speeches before the presentation of diplomas.

Smith, who had been homeschooled, was relieved to be getting her diploma.

“After finishing my homeschooling, I was informed that they could only offer me a transcript after I had worked for years to get a diploma … I sat in the office at the Board crying,” she said.  

And then Fort Logan entered her life and set her on her career path.

“Fort Logan was able to give me the opportunity to still get a diploma so I was able to further my career. I completed four credits, getting my diploma earlier than expected, and was able to get on the list for assistant teaching in the Lincoln school district. And now I work in a day care, where I was given a scholarship to attend Morehead State, where I will be starting this summer to obtain my associate’s and bachelor’s in early childhood development,” Smith said. “I couldn’t have done any of this without the opportunity of Fort Logan. That’s why I hope that no matter the situation there will always be something like this with amazing teachers to guide them like they did them.”

After thanking her mom and her family, Smith had a few final words for her fellow graduates, “We did it!”  

Miller had to fight back tears as she thanked Fort Logan and her dad.

“Fort Logan encouraged me to do better and taught me to work with people and show my voice in First Priority. My dad also encouraged me to achieve my dreams,” she said. “I want to thank him for pushing me to go to Fort Logan and become who I am.”

During her time at the podium, Miller reflected on the memories she’s made at Fort Logan.

“One thing I’ve always learned in life is never say you can’t because you can if you set your mind to it,” she said. “As we look back on the years we have spent in school, from our first day of preschool not wanting to let go of our parent’s hands, to our first day of middle school when we were just learning who we are, I remember my eighth-grade year thinking, ‘Man, these last four years are going to be so miserable.’ But they ended up being the most memorable. I had my ups and downs through school but in the end it all worked out … and (high school years) went by fast like our parents said it would.”

“As I stand here today, I want each and every one of you to know how fun it’s been with you and I hope that each of you one day achieve your dreams,” Miller added. “Cherish these moments that we have spent together as we do one last walk across the stage and let all the memories we have shared together follow with us. We are the class of Fort Logan 2018.”

Following the student speeches, teacher/counselor Eva Rankin presented the class and teacher Ricky Mullins handed out the diplomas. Rankin then certified the diplomas and the graduates turned their tassels as the audience cheered.