In a ceremony that was both uplifting and silly, Bozeman High School’s Class of 2019 graduated Sunday.

More than 400 students walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. As each name was read, the bleachers of Montana State University’s Brick Breeden Fieldhouse erupted with shouts, claps and the sound of air horns. After Superintendent Rob Watson read the final graduate’s name, students threw their red and black caps high into the air and the audience stood to cheer.

“Throwing my cap was great,” said Taylor Zentner as he posed for photos with his family shortly after the ceremony. “It’s the end after we’ve accomplished so much … and now we have our whole lives ahead of us.”

Friends Libby Stromberg and Abby Sites, both of whom plan to attend MSU in the fall, gathered with other graduates in the fieldhouse, congratulating each other.

“I feel great,” Stromberg said. “This is about starting fresh. Anything is possible.”

“This is a landmark moment,” Sites said. “We’ve accomplished so much, and hopefully, there will be many more accomplishments to come.”

Outside, families stood for photos and hugs as it began to lightly rain.

Marlene and Bob Rink traveled from Minnesota to see their eldest granddaughter, Sophie Millington, receive her diploma and the Patrick Donehoo Memorial Scholarship.

“It’s very exciting to see her graduate,” Marlene Rink said. “We’re excited to see what she does next and to watch her continue to grow.”

Principal Katie Laslovich read a statement on behalf of former principal Kevin Conwell, who retired earlier this year due to health issues.

“I encourage you to use the courage, confidence and competence you have gained from your families and from your school to dare greatly even if it means sometimes failing first,” Conwell wrote in his statement. “The triumphs you achieve in the end will be that much more significant and rewarding if you have put yourself out there and risked failure first.”

English teacher James Maxwell, who students selected as the faculty speaker, advised graduates to find ways to be better. He urged them to strive for personal success and growth, while also working to improve the broader world. He suggested they reflect deeply, read widely and not automatically accept what others tell them.

The two student speakers brought humor to the ceremony, trying to get the audience to clap in unison and asking everyone to dance to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” for 30 seconds.

“There will be times in the coming years when you are lost or scared,” Bergen Hill said. “I want each and every one of you to remember this: If you ever come up to a wall, climb it. If you ever run into a lake, swim across it. If you ever come upon some ice cream, eat it, please.”

Julien Harris, who described himself as always striving to “pizzazz it up,” began his speech with a rap and a song. He told graduates to break the mold and stop worrying about what other people think. He recalled times when he took risks and acted crazily in high school, including by wearing short gold shorts to class.

“Let’s act a little foolish. Let’s be crazy some of the time. Let’s make fools of ourselves and be ridiculous and have fun … Let’s take the risk to be embarrassed,” he said. “Your life is in your hands, and I’m not saying don’t take any of it seriously, but it doesn’t all have to be serious.”

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

Perrin Stein is the county, state and federal government reporter for the Chronicle.

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