Sunday was probably the last time that the 215 members of the Williston High School class of 2017 would all be in the same place at the same time.

Some are off to college in the fall, whether to Williston State College, the University of North Dakota or any number of other schools. Some have jobs already lined up. Others will be heading to basic training for the military.

No matter where they’re headed, though, they all have the same advice ringing in their ears.

“Coyotes, go out and make a difference.”

Williston High School Principal Jason Germundson has been exhorting them with that phrase for their four years at the high school.

This year, when they moved into the district’s new high school building, they saw it inscribed above every set of exterior doors.

It’s so ingrained into their psyche that all three student speakers at Sunday’s graduation service mentioned it in their speeches.

“It’s my mantra, my motto,” Germundson said after the ceremony. “It’s something I try to instill in the students.”

This class is special to him. This is his fourth year as head high school principal. That means this is the first class that came in as freshmen under his leadership.

This is a class of a lot of firsts. They’re also the first to graduate in the Jon Cole Gymnasium in the new high school building.

On of their number spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony in 2014. They had input throughout the last three years about what the new building would be like.

Now, after the first school year was done, they were the first to toss their caps in the air in the new space.

As the graduating class sat in rows on the floor, surrounded by hundreds of teachers, parents, family and friends, they heard from Dominic Martinez, who reflected on how quickly senior year had gone, and how his class was made up of different personalities, but that made it special.

He compared it to a jigsaw puzzle with thousands of small pieces.

“Without a single one of those pieces, the puzzle cannot be completed,” he said.

Kody Proctor admitted at the start of his speech that he was a little scared, but even with that feeling, he wanted to pay tribute to his classmates.

“You made me feel like I belong here,” he said.

Jacie Kohler thanked the teachers, parents, coaches and others who supported her and her classmates throughout their journeys, and had some advice for her class.

“Go out into the world, be courageous and take charge,” she told them.

Kohler, Martinez and Proctor all had one common theme for their speeches, though. It was something they heard over and over again.

“Coyotes, go out and make a difference.”

 

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