"We often take the life we have here for granted. Seriously, look around us, I mean it’s beautiful! While we may not have a giant mall, or any places to eat after 10 p.m. for that matter, how many kids can say they grew up next to a mountain ... with a secret portal inside it?”

“Living in Mount Shasta is a special thing,” said Mount Shasta High School graduate Chris Bachmann Friday evening as he stood at the podium alongside fellow valedictorians Zoe Malee, Gavin Paisley and Vitaliy Tveritin. “We often take the life we have here for granted. Seriously, look around us, I mean it’s beautiful! While we may not have a giant mall, or any places to eat after 10 p.m. for that matter, how many kids can say they grew up next to a mountain ... with a secret portal inside it?”

Humor was often used during the speeches at MSHS’s graduation ceremony Friday evening at Joe Blevins Memorial Stadium, directly in the shadow of Mt. Shasta. A total of 76 Bears took steps into their futures during the windswept ceremony, which was chilly in temperature but warm in feeling.

The valedictorians pointed out that MSHS’s Class of 2019 has accomplished and experienced much during the four years they’ve been together.

“On the courts and fields, we have won multiple league and section titles, along with the first North State Basketball Championship in over two decades,” said Paisley. “We have had inspiring captains and leaders, MVPs, hard working athletes and incredibly motivating friends and family in the stands.”

And in the classroom, Bachmann said, the class was one of the most academically competitive in years.

“The Class of 2019 has truly embodied our school motto of being a home of scholars and champions,” said Tveritin.

“Whatever it is that you decide to do after you get your diploma, your golden ticket into the future, whether it be the military, college, travel, the workforce, or just hangin out, go for it. Life’s a choice you make every day, be true to yourself and never let anyone tell you who you should be. Be courageous in your actions, life will give you what you put in,” said Tveritin.

“And don’t be afraid to be different. You’re from Mount Shasta ... you’re probably a weirdo anyway,” Malee said.

“Before we started this speech, none of us really knew what it was supposed to be about,” said Malee.

“We thought we were just the school’s four biggest nerds, while this is semi-true,” said Paisley. “Mr. Phillips added a new meaning to our title. He defined us valedictorians as the ones chosen to give a valediction, a farewell.

“So this is our valediction to you: Here we are, almost graduates, anxious and a little terrified for the future. We’ll throw our caps, walk away, and wait and wonder where they’ll fall back down. Some will land close, some far, but whatever happens, have fun with it. After all, life is meant to be enjoyed, so enjoy it.”

Salutatorian Paul Hamann didn’t miss a beat when one of the pages of his speech blew away in the wind and recovered well. If the audience hadn’t known what had happened, they’d probably not even know he was winging it when he spoke about some of the fun things that happened their senior year.

Hamann thanked his classmates for their acceptance when he moved to Mount Shasta two years ago. He said he found friends and a place in the community immediately.

The class motto is a quote from Jennifer Lee, “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” Many pointed to that theme as they spoke, including principal Sati Shah, who also talked about the inclusiveness of the class, who all reached their highest potential together.

He encouraged the graduates to reach for their goals and not let anyone stop them.

Jazz Choir seniors sang the Andra Day song “Rise Up” and the recessional song was “Good Times,” by All Time Low.

Jane Huston, a retired kindergarten teacher from Mount Shasta Elementary School, was the graduation’s keynote speaker. She said she had some of the graduating seniors in her classes or remembers seeing them in other classes. She pointed out the many connections between the class and the community who supports them.

Senior class president Greta Knight led the Pledge of Allegiance and was charming in her introduction of the valedictorians when she accidentally referred to them as salutatorians.

“As you can tell, I’m not one,” she joked when she was corrected in her error.

Siskiyou Union High School trustees Gregg Gunkel and Jana Blevins presented the graduates with their diplomas with the help of Les Phillips and Barbara Porteous.

Knight also directed the class to switch their tassels at the end of the ceremony, which was followed by the traditional tossing of caps.