Class of 2017 embarks on life’s journey

Amorette Allison
Star Staff Writer
Custer County District High School passed out diplomas to 119 graduates Sunday afternoon.
Some aspects of the graduation were business as usual, like the large crowd almost filling the 3,000 seats in the gymnasium, while others, including an original composition on a ukulele by the class salutatorian, gave the ceremony a Miles City flavor.
Guest speaker Brett Nansel, a 1995 CCDHS graduate who now works as one of 64 full-time National Basketball Association referees, delivered the commencement address. He emphasized how hard work is the key to success and Miles City kids are lucky to grow up with a strong work ethic.
As a referee, he said he isn’t used to a positive reception, so he asked everyone to boo enthusiastically before he began his address and the audience complied. 
He also told a story about introducing himself before a game, as is traditional, and shaking hands with the players. A famous basketball player introduced himself and said he was from Chicago. Nansel introduced himself and said he was from Miles City, Montana. The player walked away, then turned back to ask Brett to repeat that.
Nansel said because of a technical foul declared against the player later in the game, that famous player from Chicago now remembers Miles City.
He went on to use a “four-letter word” and asked that ears of small children be covered before he said it. The word was “work” and he went on to tell about how much work and how many sacrifices he made to obtain his goal. He said not everyone starts with the same talents or advantages but hard work is the most important thing.
Before Nansel spoke, CCDHS principal Beez Lucero recognized the 29 honor students in the graduating class and four students who will be entering the U.S. military upon graduation.
Salutatorian Cyra Cheyenne Smith gave a brief but inspirational speech to her fellow graduates with her personal list of advice for success. She was followed by Valedictorian Hallie Anne Banta, whose speech took the form of an original song she composed. She sang and accompanied herself on her ukulele.
Jamie Ogolin of the Custer County Educational Foundation named the students who had received scholarships from the Foundation. He said every single student who got their application in on time and participated in the Dollars for Scholarships phone fundraiser received some form of scholarship. There were 42 students who received a total $65,500 in scholarship funds.
In addition to performances by the CCDHS band, the graduating seniors who were vocal music students sang a special song — “And Wherever You Go” by Douglas E. Wagner — to their fellow graduates and friends and families in the stands.
After each graduate received their diploma from School District Trustees Nancy Larson and Jack Raymond, District Superintendent Keith Campbell moved their tassels on their mortarboards. They then moved through a line of faculty and staff for hugs, handshakes, congratulations and farewells.
(Contact Amorette Allison at 234-0450 or