May 29, 2024

Someone is watching over

Some of this year’s Creston High’s graduates will attend a college where it may have unfamiliar places and many unfamiliar faces.

But that doesn’t mean someone is not watching over those Creston students said Maddie (Travis) Gillam, guest speaker for Creston High School baccalaureate service held Wednesday. Creston High commencement is 2 p.m., Sunday at the high school.

Gillam, a 2016 Creston graduate, attended Simpson College afterward. The environment at the college in Indianola was a new setting.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat this or scare you, it was really hard,” she said. “I was somebody who was really confident.”

She went from Creston, mentioning how heavily involved in activities and there probably wasn’t a person from Creston she didn’t know or know of.

What she experienced her first year at Simpson was a significant transition.

“I only knew of three people,” she said about trying to find her place in college. “It was really hard because I was involved (in Creston).”

Gillam said she wanted to attend a church in Indianola and was relieved when she saw who also was there when she arrived, even though it still wasn’t the ideal situation for her.

“Levi Eblen was there,” she said about the 2014 Creston graduate who played football at Simpson. “I really didn’t know him. He just waved.”

But those kind of moments over time constantly reminded her to use her faith.

Gillam said she was encouraged that year by the song “Love Never Fails” by Brandon Heath. He sings the phrases of being protected and being supported by God’s love. Gillam encouraged those students preparing for what she went through referring to Biblical scripture. She recited Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”

She also referred to the scripture in verse 11 that encourages believers to be content.

“And not just with the good situations,” she said.

Gillam encouraged the students, especially the ones who were involved in high school, to continue being that way in college. She said that will help improve finding and building relationships with others to prevent the fear of isolation and the unknowns. She encouraged the believers to follow a podcast, music or Bible studies to help the confidence and maybe interacting with others.

“Get involved,” she said. “Be real in your relationship with God. He knows your story.”

This year’s graduating Creston class has a unique story as they started their high school career in fall 2019. School wasn’t the same during the second semester, specifically in March 2020, when the COVID pandemic began its proverbial infection of nearly every facet of life including schools.

The first case in Iowa was announced March 8. That would begin a growing momentum of how it changed or closed businesses, public gathering places and the list grew.

At first, Iowa officials said March 15 to close school for a month in hopes things would subside enough for students to safely be in class and buildings. But a month later, those hopes for improvement never developed as Gov. Kim Reynolds forced the closure of school for the remainder of the school year.

“It was devastating,” said senior Brooklyn McKinney looking back at her freshman year. She was planning to play tennis in the spring of 2020, but with COVID eventually canceling the remaining school calendar, it also canceled all school activities.

Returning to school her sophomore year in the fall of 2020, McKinney was well aware of the precautions and processes the school implemented to prevent additional cases from happening within school. “Oh, the masks,” she said. But as as that year passed she said she did reach a point where “it wasn’t bad.”

McKinney wasn’t alone. Tristen Rice was planning on running track in spring 2020 with her older sister Peyton.

“That would have been the first year of us together,” she said. Peyton graduated in 2021.

Like McKinney, Rice knew her sophomore year would not be like the first semester of her freshman year. Flipping through pages of the yearbook from the 2020-2021 school year, students in masks were common.

“There were no smiling faces,” Rice said how the mask covered expressions.

Carter Henderson said he got used to a COVID-influenced high school career during his junior year, even though the pressure from the ailment was not near as heavy from what he had seen.

“It was not as strict as the freshman year,” he said. “You still wanted to keep it (COVID) away. You would distance yourself,” he said.

But maybe the Creston High School class of 2023 will be a little closer because of what they experienced together for those four years.

The service was sponsored by the Creston Ministerial Alliance.

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.