'You'll always be a Buck'

Flint Rasmussen, rodeo clown, gave the keynote speech during the Pendleton High School graduation Saturday afternoon.<br><i>Staff photo by Samantha Tipler</i>

For the 216 seniors in Pendleton High School's class of 2010, Saturday's graduation was about potential, family and small town roots.

And the ceremony speakers, including seniors Amelia Neal and Kyanne Hickey and well-known rodeo clown Flint Rasmussen, rode that point home during the school's 118th commencement at the Pendleton Convention Center.

Neal told the graduates their 13 years of school means they still have much to accomplish.

"You've only learned enough to score 1,100 on the SAT or 22 on the ACT," she said. "You haven't affected the world ... yet."

That three-letter word, Neal said, sums up what lies ahead, "whether it's graduating college, becoming a doctor, rocking your baby to sleep ... "

All of that has "yet" to happen, she said, but it won't be easy.

"Work for it, or else 'yet' will never come," Neal said, "and our world will never improve."

Neal's classmate Hickey turned the attention to the family and friends who packed the place.

"Without that support, we're fish out of water, or withering plants in a dark room," she said. "... Other things may change us, but we all start and end with family."

Principal Tom Lovell said 98 seniors won scholarships totaling $2.3 million, including $137,284 from local groups such as Rotary and Kiwanis and from families and individuals. He also said 19 students graduated with high honors (GPAs of 3.5-3.74), 41 with highest honors (GPAs of 3.75-4.0) and 49 earned an honors diploma.

And he announced Joey Blakely, Carson Clem, Deven Jennings and Jennifer O'Grady were this year's Lantern Cup winners, the school's highest award for personal development, scholarship and class contribution.

Rasmussen has spent his share of Pendleton Round-Ups distracting bulls, helping cowboys and keeping fans laughing. He had this bunch laughing as well.

Hailing from Choteau, Mont., Rasmussen stuck to a subject he knows - growing up and living in a small town. Rasmussen said there's a few ways to know if you're from a small town: "If your football team shares a home field with a rodeo arena ... If your town's biggest claim to fame is a rodeo and having an alcoholic beverage named after it ..." and "If your commencement address was given by a rodeo clown ..."

Aside from the humor, Rasmussen told the graduates that growing up in a small town teaches people about life and death and how to treat people right.

"With this rural upbringing, it's now your choice to know what to do with it," he said.

Rasmussen then left them with this advice:

"... keep something green and gold in the back of your closest because from now on you'll always be a Buck from Pendleton High School."

Jennings, the senior class president, then took the stage. "Well gang, we did it," he said. "Please join me in turning your tassels."

They did, and with zesty gusto flung their caps.

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