Nome-Beltz graduates 39 students
Tuesday, May 16 was Graduation Day for 39 seniors of Nome-Beltz High School. Following a tradition started during the COVID-19 pandemic, students paraded through town in the beds of decorated trucks under one of Nome’s late spring snow flurries and freezing temperatures.
That evening, the graduates met in the Den of the Mighty Nanooks gymnasium for their commencement ceremony. The gym was packed with cheering families, teachers and friends as the 2023 graduates shook each other’s hands under a decorative arch and processed down the gymnasium to the strains of the Nome-Beltz and Community Band.
The class of 2023 consisted of 39 graduates, including two homeschooled graduates with the Nome Extensions Correspondence School and three early graduates. Of the Nome-Beltz graduates, seven are members of the National Honor Society.
After the singing of the National Anthem and Alaska Flag Song by Nome-Beltz alumni Jackie Reader, the speeches began.
Superintendent Jamie Burgess gave a welcoming address, recognizing that the class of 2023 had a particularly weird high school experience due to the pandemic. She told the graduates that “weird can be wonderful,” and reminded the students to “keep on being a little weird…don’t be afraid to be different, don’t be afraid to take chances.”
Burgess then handed out an unsharpened pencil to each student, pointing out how useless the pencil is until it is sharpened. She told the students that everyone needs to be “sharpened,” or encounter hardship, to become a useful member of society. Then she moved on to the eraser, pointing out that when we “erase” mistakes in our lives, we are taking the opportunity to learn how to become better. Those errors “are not mistakes, they are lessons,” Burgess said.
Then came, as principal Teriscovkya Smith put it, “a lineup of Nanook excellence.” The class of 2023 had two valedictorians, Devon Crowe and Dorothy Callahan, as well as salutatorian Sophia Marble.
All three delivered speeches. Salutatorian Marbles reflected on “the memories we made …different subjects we studied … the trouble we got into…the most important word being ‘we’. We did it.”
Co-valedictorian Devon Crowe highlighted the futures his classmates could go on to achieve and expressed pride in every member of the class of 2023.
Dorothy Callahan, co-valedictorian, focused her speech on growth. She defined growth as “progression…our development to work together as a class,” and “our ability to overcome obstacles and challenges.” She encouraged her classmates and listeners to embrace those moments of growth.
Before the senior slideshow, Principal Smith read the class a poem about change saying change “turns us into shapeshifters at times. Your challenge, class of 2023, is to think about what shape you will take next.” The slideshow highlighted some of that change, showing pictures of each graduating senior as they grew through the years. The slideshow also highlighted each senior’s future plans which ranged from college, to gap years, to vocational school, to exploring options.
Former English teacher, Rebekah Snell gave the Commencement Address. Before she did, she asked the Seniors to take a selfie with her, letting the class now that she missed them since she moved away. Highlighting how she took a big risk when she moved to Alaska to teach, Snell said “take the risk, don’t be afraid to fail.”
“Look around the room,” she teased, “You are surrounded by failures. You are also surrounded by great success. For many people, this goes hand in hand. With great risk comes great reward.” She encouraged the students to never measure their success against the success of other people’s, sharing how unhappy that mindset made her and how she learned to grow away from it. “My success just looked different from everyone else’s,” she said.
After the Commencement Address, the graduates lined up, row by row to receive their diplomas and have their pictures taken. Smith gave the certification of graduation, and the graduates threw their caps in the air to the sound of popping balloons and cheering onlookers.