Custer High School Class of 2022 says farewell

Jason Ferguson

First class.
That was not only the name of the speech Custer Elementary fifth grade teacher Isaac Parsons delivered at the 2022 commencement exercises at Custer High School last Saturday afternoon, but also a life lesson the students should know as they leave the halls of Custer High School.
First class actually had a pair of meanings, Parsons explained. The Custer High School class of 2022 was the first class he had as a fifth grade teacher eight years ago (“I was told by a fellow teacher during the summer heading into my first year of teaching for this group, ‘this was the toughest class I’ve ever had.’ He said, ‘good luck,’” Parsons told the audience to laughter) and be told the graduates he believed they all had the chance to make others around them feel like they are first class.
“First class is putting someone else’s needs before your own. Taking time to listen, sharing a kind, encouraging word, living the golden rule,” he said. “You do not have to be the smartest, the prettiest, the most hard working person to make someone else feel first class. You can all do it. If you can do it at least once a day, you will make the world around you a better place.”
Parsons told the graduates there would be times doubt creeps into their minds as to what they are capable of, and likened it to the students’ fifth grade ski trip to Terry Peak. Many of them saw the mountain as an obstacle they could perhaps not overcome, but throughout the day made progress and perservered.
“The fact is we learn more real world skills from those kinds of experienes than we do when things are easy or given to us,” he said. “Tough times make people stronger. We learn more in the hardships. That’s how education is too. It can be hard and scary, but in the end, we learn so much.”
Class co-valedictorian Miles Ellman also addressed the class, cautioning he found it somewhat hard to give a profound speech when he was “wearing a hat the shape of a square” on his head.
“The diploma we receive here today doesn’t mean much of anything by itself,” he said. “Obviously it is a record of your education for employers, but it’s everything else we have gained and learned from our time in school that means the most.”
Ellman said when people think of the smartest people they know, they don’t think about people like him—they think of their mom or dad, or that one teacher who seems to know everything about every subject.
“This diploma is a milestone of that personal growth,” he said. “If you look up to someone like Elon Musk, you’re probably doing someting wrong. It’s those people who we call the smartest people in our lives we know we should probably try to be like. Those people who constantly build their character to push themselves for their job or their community or family, whom everyone around respects so much for their competence because they constantly learn and adapt and build on themselves.”
Ellman implored his classmates to “keep yearning for those instrinsic developments we have been working on all these years.”
Parsons said the best way to make someone feel first class is to do so through relationships. He said the graduates have developed relationships throughout their school years, whether it was in elementary, middle school or high school and whether it was with fellow students, faculty or others.
“I hope in the last eight years I have made you feel first class,” he said.
 Parsons shared some parting knowledge with the help of Winnie the Pooh, saying please and thank you can get you a lot further in life than some like to admit, that it’s not polite to walk between two people when they are having a conversation, that if you say you are going to do something, you should do it, sharing your progress instead of your goals will keep you motivated, throughts are powerful and to keep them positive, you are more defined by what comes out of your mouth than what goes in it,  you get more by giving more and to stay curious.
“Don’t wish away any season you encounter as hard as it may be,” he said. “Always remember you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

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