Fort Knox Middle High School faculty batted that word around a couple of times in the school gym May 19 to describe the Class of 2023 during their graduation ceremony. The word surfaced when describing the valedictorian and later when it was announced that every senior had graduated.
Even the director of Department of Defense Education Activity, Thomas Brady, attended to sing their praises, acknowledging their 100% graduation record. Ninety students attended this year, 90 students graduated.
High school principal Dr. Stacie Lamoureaux said she got to know the students over the past year-and-a-half and will miss them — her first graduating class since taking over her role.
“I have developed a fondness for this group of students,” said Lamoureaux. “They’re exceptionally talented. They’re highly motivated, and they are high achievers.
“But most importantly, they’re just a great group of kids.”
Lamoureaux admitted the high school students have endured a lot of changes over the past year.
“We’ve had three principals, we’ve had three assistant principals, and we’ve had six changes of our teaching staff,” said Lamoureaux. “We can all agree that change is difficult.”
The crowd cheered when Lamoureaux announced the perfect graduation record, but she said there was much more to announce.
“Our students earned 134 college acceptance letters, $6.7 million in scholarship money, 11 ROTC scholarships, one military academy appointment, four athletic scholarships, 61 ROTC college credit recommendations … and 100% of our JROTC seniors earned college credit recommendations.”
Returning to guest speak at the commencement, previous Fort Knox high school principal and current Southeast District chief of staff Lonnie Gilmore said it was good to be back in front of his old students.
“I am home,” he said.
Gilmore reflected on his time as a high school graduated in 1996 and encouraged the graduates to celebrate fully but be ready for change.
“You’ll be high school graduates with new expectations, new responsibilities, and new decisions to make that will impact the trajectory of your future,” said Gilmore, who reflected on how his time as a Marine helped him focus on what would become his future path as a teacher and administrator. One experience in particular shaped his thinking, when he was faced with the possibility of failing out of boot camp because of a swim qualification that he was unable to complete.
Gilmore said the drill instructor insisted that he “get back in the water!”
“Life is waiting for each of you in some form or another,” said Gilmore. “Life doesn’t care where you’re from, where you’ve been, how much you know, your fears – life doesn’t care. It will grab you by the collar and toss you into the deep end of the pool.”
Gilmore told the class that mistakes will happen, feeling overwhelmed will happen, successes and failures will happen “and make you want to get out of the pool – but get back in the water.”
One of the more unusual highlights of the night happened when salutatorian Thomas Landis veered from what he called a typical speech and instead decided to read to the class. He read from the children’s bedtime story “Goodnight Moon” to the thunderous approval of his classmates.
As Landis read, Dr. Laura Alvarez, language arts teacher and senior class sponsor, held up a large version of the book, helping flip the pages so all could follow along.
“The end.” Landis said the book held an important parallel meaning to their graduation.
“A great story about the end of the day being read on the last night of our high school days,” said Landis. “But I think it’s important that we keep in mind that as Mr. Rogers once said, ‘Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.’
“Here’s to something else. Congrats, Class of 2023. Thank you, and goodnight.”