MISSOULA – Family members, guardians and friends celebrated the commencement of the 63 graduates of Willard Alternative High School on Thursday evening.
The ceremony opened with a performance of the Honor Song performed by Thomas Kicking Woman — and in an emotional show of gratitude — also celebrated Kennie Weiler, who worked as Willard’s lunch lady for 14 years.
The alternative school celebrates and nurtures students who often find troubles succeeding in the other public schools, and students from all walks of life and situations found themselves on the stage together for the last time.
For many, the graduation ceremony was bittersweet. Former students Matilda Kushner and Brandon Anderson, who were chosen to speak by their class, as both expressed some sadness about leaving behind what all speakers described as a family — a family they learned from.
"Because I learned to maintain a mentality of gratitude, even in the smallest of things. A positive mindset will carry you farther through life than any negative thought could ever do," Kushner told her fellow graduates.
"I also made the decision to never allow myself to be reduced to a victim of my circumstances. As my mom would say, there’s always an answer. There is so much more that I learned in my time at Willard. However, time just does not permit to share them all," she added.
Hellgate, Sentinel and Big Sky high schools will hold their graduation ceremonies on Saturday inside the Adams Center.