Typically, when you ask to gather an entire graduating senior class for a photo, it doesn’t happen easily. Everyone’s schedules need to be taken into account, extracurriculars often get in the way, there is always a reason some student may be out of school or have an in-school commitment that conflicts with the time most others can make it.
But when there are only twelve students in the graduating class, the challenge isn’t so great.
“Holy crap, that’s not a lot of people. That’s what everybody says when they find out how small our class is,” said Kade Rennich.
Everyone laughed, nodding their heads.
All twelve were hanging out this past week in a classroom when we caught up with them. They had just taken some photos out back of the school and were waiting for a ceremony to begin to honor them and award scholarships.
The class is small, perhaps one of the smallest graduating classes in the country this year. But the impact this rural South Dakota community and school has had on them, they feel is greater than anything they may have gained being in a bigger town.
“I think being in a small school, the impact is on all the kids. You really get to know your classmates and teachers, it’s an opportunity you may not get in a larger school,” said Amanda Triebwasser.
“I used to go to school in Brookings and at first, I didn’t want to come here. This was way different. But I’m so glad we moved here. Before, I hardly knew any of my classmates and I never got one-on-one time with the teachers. Not like this. Here you do,” said Destiney Kasdorf.
Alongside the academic advantages, these students agree, are the social rewards.
“There’s really not any drama. At all. Usually in a bigger class you’ve got a lot of students where there are big differences and because of that, they hardly know each other. We’re all pretty close,” Rennich added.
“We hang out a lot, at least half of us, most of the time. We’re close, we know almost everything there is to know about each other,” said Hailey Harms. She added while being close is nice, it can also be frustrating.
“Sometimes we don’t get things accomplished in class as easily because we just argue,” said Victoria (Tori) Nelsen.
There were a few nudges and more laughter.
Nelsen added, “With so few of us, it’s easy for us to disagree on things because we’re all different, we all have our own opinions and we can speak our mind more often. Because we’re smaller and we all know each other so well, it doesn’t take as much for us to talk about our feelings. So sometimes we find ourselves arguing over stuff.”
It’s almost as if, over the years, the twelve have grown to be more like siblings, than distant classmates with their own respective lives.
“Having a small class means we’ve got each others backs and..we’re always been there for each other. Know each others memories. We pretty much all live next to each other, in small radius. We’re like each others brothers and sisters and I think that’s made us a more cohesive classroom,” said Callista Verver.
“We are so close, it’s just going to be hard to not see these guys everyday ..” said Lizzy Lovro, with tears in her eyes.
“I really want to thank the Colman-Egan staff for all their hard work. All they have been through with us, what they put us through, we’re at this point where we can look back and see the value of everything over the years and all we’ve learned. Keep on doing what you’re doing,” said Amanda Triebwasser.
“Take advantage of this,” said Verver, as advice to the younger generations coming up through the Colman-Egan School District. “Get together as much as possible, because when it comes down to the end, you’ll miss this stuff.”
“As much as I hate living in a small town, I know I’ll miss this town if I leave,” said Nelsen.
“I think people will get a lot of opportunities once they get outside of Colman. I think the idea is you want to stay because it’s comfortable here. It’s going to be hard at first, but once we get out, there’s so much more to see and do,” said Verver.
“I’ll miss it. But I can’t wait to go,” said Vance Jones.
Just then, Mr. Hemmer stepped inside the door saying, “It’s time.”
The twelve laughed and agreed this will all be bittersweet, as they left together, toward the scholarship ceremony in the gym.