PRAIRIE GROVE -- High school Principal Jed Davis always gives a message to his outgoing seniors at the graduation ceremony, and for 2023, Davis had three pieces of advice: "just be a buffalo," "this too shall pass" and, with life, "assembly is required."
Davis stood facing 133 seniors sitting in chairs on the football field on a beautiful Saturday evening, May 20, with the scoreboard showing 20:23 in the background. The home stands and visitor bleachers were filled with families, friends and others there to watch the senior class move into its next phase of life as high school graduates.
Davis' advice about being a buffalo came from a man at Frederick's One Stop in Prairie Grove.
A friend of Davis' was talking about hard times with the "coffee" group of men at the convenience store and one man spoke up. "Just be a buffalo," the man told Davis' friend, explaining that in Colorado the state is divided by the Rocky Mountains, and it is one of the few places where cows and buffaloes are together.
Storms start from the west, come over the Rocky Mountains and down to the plains but the animals respond differently to the storm systems.
Cows, sensing a storm, do what seems logical, Davis said, and turn and run away from the storm, prolonging the time before they have to enter the storm. Eventually, the storm catches up with the cows and then they are running with the storm. This means the cows are in the storm longer, maximizing the pain and frustration they experience from the storm, Davis said.
Buffaloes, however, wait for the storm and as it rolls toward them, they turn and charge directly into the storm.
"It doesn't seem to make sense," Davis said, "but running at the storm, they run straight through it. The time they spend in the storm is shorter and they minimize the amount of time and pain and frustration they experience in the storm."
He notes, it's the exact same storm for both cows and buffaloes.
Davis warned the seniors about storms in their lives.
"We don't get to choose whether we have storms. Every one of us will face storms in our lives. The only choice we get is how we respond to them. We can run from storms and spend more time in them or we can meet the storms head on."
So, he told them, "Be a buffalo."
His second piece of advice came from the actor Tom Hanks, when he was asked what he would tell his younger self. "This too will pass" was Hanks' response.
Davis told the seniors that whether they are facing hard times or having a great day, "This too will pass."
The third piece of advice he told students was that with life, "assembly is required."
The seniors would be leaving as graduates with a diploma but they would not be handed an instruction manual for the rest of their lives.
"Life won't give you step-by-step directions, but what it will do is to give you the pieces required to have a successful life. You will be required to put it together," Davis said, adding, "Your life can be great but there is an assembly required."
Davis wasn't the only one to address the senior class. Three students spoke during commencement and a fourth senior, Amery Phillips, played the keyboard and sang, "Godspeed."
Class President Weston Lowe encouraged his classmates to approach life with "positivity, happiness and empathy." He reminded them life would not always be easy.
"Choose to be positive, choose to be happy and choose to love others around you," Lowe said.
Senior Audrey Workman said the achievement of graduating after 13 years of school should be recognized.
"Not just as an act of pride but as a milestone, the start of our lives as adults," Workman said.
She quoted Minor Myles Jr., saying the quote spoke to her and she wanted to share it with the class: "Go in the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good."
Caleb Elenbarger, in addressing his classmates, noted that the Class of 2023 has had challenges and faced unprecedented times with the pandemic.
"The pandemic has changed the way we live, work and learn, yet we have demonstrated remarkable adaptability and tenacity in overcoming these challenges," Elenbarger said.
He reminded the seniors that they are well-equipped to face whatever comes their way. He also urged them to remember the people and the moments that shaped their journey thus far.
"You are an inspiration to us all and I am honored to have been a part of your journey," Elenbarger said.
As tradition, the high school band and choir participated in the graduation ceremony. The choir sang the National Anthem and the Prairie Grove Alma Mater. The band played "Pomp and Circumstance" as the seniors walked on the football field to their places.
Superior honor graduates were recognized as well as seniors who received annual awards.
For the main event, Davis announced the seniors as they walked across the stage to receive their diploma from School Board President William Dick.
At the end of the ceremony, Lowe returned to the stage to have all the seniors turn their tassels to show that they now were Prairie Grove graduates. He gave a countdown and graduation caps were tossed in the air with celebrations occurring on the field afterward among graduates and family members.