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Seated l to r: Kacy Gurrola, Madison McDowell, Katie Johnson, Brianna Lawrence-Wilson. Standing l to r: Brentley Lening, Keenan Smith, Porter Spady, Nathan Lowe. Not pictured: Owen Sorter.

Nine Eagles and One Hawk Fly High at Graduation Ceremonies in Kiowa County

By Betsy Barnett

June 4, 2024

Both the Eads High School gymnasium and Plainview High School gym were full of friends and family on Saturday, May 25, when Eads graduated nine seniors and Plainview honored one lone graduate from the Class of 2024.

Elijiah Harkness was the lone graduate of the Plainview Class of 2024. He is the son of Sean and Misty Harkness of Towner. During the Plainview ceremony it was announced that Harkness will this fall attend Northwest Technical College in Goodland, KS to learn the Welding trade to earn industry certifications. He received the Eastern Kiowa County Alumni Scholarship for $400, Towner Methodist Community Scholarship for $1500, and the Towner Recreation District Scholarship for $500. He met the requirements for Valedictorian. He also graduated with an honors diploma.


In his speech to the community Harkness described how he was literally the last man standing as through the years of elementary, middle, and high school students came and went. Harkness also spoke about the lessons he learned as a lone senior in a small school. “I have learned many things but the lessons that have stuck the most with me are hard work, teamwork, and respect. Hard work, for instance, in planning and setting up events and putting in the work for fundraisers by myself, which can be tedious at times, and lending a helping hand to those who need it. Respecting those who are in authority over you even though you will often not agree with them. Finally, teamwork in all the activities and class groupings that brought all the Plainview students and teachers closer together.”

Superintendent Jess Buller then verified Harkness had met the school district’s graduation requirements. Elijiah’s father, Sean Harkness, who is the BOCES Representative on the Plainview School Board, presented him with his diploma.

Plainview also graduated three 8th graders, all girls, on Saturday in the same ceremony.

Later, on Saturday afternoon, the second Kiowa County graduation ceremony took place honoring the Eads High School Class of 2024. Eads had a small class of 9 seniors with Brianna Lawrence-Wilson, daughter of Jeff and Barbara Scranton, named as the Valedictorian of the class, and Katie Johnson, daughter of Levi Johnson and Audrey Johnson of Haswell was presented as the Salutatorian.

Lawrence-Wilson told the crowd how obtaining the best grades and being the highest achieving student was her goal for most of her time in school, until she began to feel the pressure of that success, “When you are among the top of your class, you are likely to become an up-tight, Type-A personality with a stress-induced heart condition. Ironically, you say weird things like “I’m going to consolidate my belongings,” and “that’s too intellectually involved for me at the moment,” and never live it down. They slap the title of “nerd” on your chest, and you wear it proudly, but now, you are not allowed to make mistakes. When you show any evidence that you don’t have math, science, and life all figured out, your title is questioned. Your worth is questioned, because what are you if you aren’t a nerd?”

Brianna went on to tell the crowd, “Somewhere along my high school journey, I became disconnected from my purpose. Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” When I read that for the first time in English class, I began to question the worth of my sacrifices in exchange for a leadership-title, decorated resume, and paper-bound 98s, 99s, and 100s. I started to question if my vision of success was one I had procured on my own, or if I had allowed others to decide what it was for me.”

She contended, “I was lost. Wandering the backroads with an open mind questioning everything I thought I knew, I learned more than I ever had before. For instance, I gained an intuition for exactly how much I can procrastinate and still get the grades I want, which is about until the night before whatever is due, a couple of Billy Joel albums, and a pot of black coffee, in case you were wondering. I learned that this might mean sacrificing 3% of a test grade in exchange for an hour assaulting the ears of my family members practicing guitar, and that sometimes, it is worth the callused fingertips and precious moments of joy.”

Lawrence-Wilson then told the crowd that it took her examining her values that got her out of her funk, “Above all, I realized that the most authentic form of success can only be achieved by taking the time to clarify your values, and to allow ourselves to be faithfully guided by them. When you have values to follow, you always have a direction. You are never lost.”

Then, the Eads Valedictorian challenged her fellow classmates to determine their own sense of purpose, because she believes having a purpose in life is key to moving forward. She told them, “To my fellow graduating class, I ask that we embark on the journey ahead with a sense of purpose. Ask yourself: Who am I? Write down a list of values—authenticity, curiosity, patriotism, generosity, resilience, and so on—and next to each one, write down how you demonstrate that value. When you take the time to do this, you will have no choice but to be honest with yourself. Whatever you write, you will know in your heart whether or not it is true. Are you living by what you value? Do you actually value what you tell yourself that you do, or did you write it down because it is something you were told is important? Is it something you ought to value, but you have failed to live by it?”

And finally, Lawrence-Wilson asked her classmates to remember the people in their life who played a part in making them the person they are today. “I ask that we thank our math and science teachers, no matter how many times we ask ourselves, “When will I ever use this?” They taught us to think logically, if nothing else, just like history and civics taught us to think for ourselves, and like English and art taught us to think differently. I ask that we thank our small town community for providing a safe environment to grow up, for sparing every penny it can when tragedy strikes any member of our tribe, and for a far bigger family than we would get anywhere else. I ask that we thank our parents, teachers, advisors, coaches, and other role models, because we certainly don’t do that enough. Give your gratitude authentically, knowing that you are entitled to nothing they’ve done for you, and that you can only dream to do enough to return the favor. Thank you to my bosses at Crow’s Stop and Shop for giving me the highest-paying unpaid internship ever. I’ll write that essay about it one day, Chief. Thank you to my classmates for teaching me that sometimes, I’ve got to stop overthinking it, quit allowing fear to hold me back, and just jump on the stupid roller coaster already. Because of you, I’ll miss out on a lot less of life’s thrills. Last, but not least, as much as we butt heads, I can’t thank anyone more than my parents. I don’t tell you I love you often enough. I am forever in debt to all of the sacrifices you have made for me. You are the biggest reason why I am who I am, and why I value what I value.”

When the Valedictorian’s impressive speech had concluded, District Superintendent Glenn Smith presented diplomas to the students who were then congratulated by school board members Ralph Berry, Keith Crow, Holly Mitchek, Dustin Uhland, Darci Johnson, Shawn Kraft, and Jessica Sierra. High School Principal Brian Bohlander then announced the future plans and scholarship awards of each student.

Kacy Gurrola plans to attend Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction where she will major in studio art to become an illustrator.

Katie Johnson will attend Colorado University in Boulder in the fall where she will major in Psychology and minor in Biology. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she plans to continue her education by obtaining her Doctorate in Occupational Therapy and eventually opening her own pediatric practice. Johnson received the Daniels Fund Scholarship which covers the full cost of attendance at a partner school, which Katie is attending. She will receive $60,000 per year, renewable for a total of $240,000. Katie will attend SHIFT College at Colorado Christian College in June where she will receive a MacBook. She received the CU-Boulder Presidential Scholarship $3,000/semester, renewable for $24,000, and the Marlynn Eikenberg Servant Heart Scholarship.

An important aspect of Marlynn Eikenberg’s life was her commitment to her communities. She was committed to the Eads School District by serving 20 years on the school board in which she was a part of making positive transitions. She spent 15 years serving on the Haswell Town Council because she was devoted to the preservation of her community. As part of her commitment to her communities, she loved to care for others. Not only was she a CNA that cared for many at Weisbrod Memorial Hospital, but she also spent many hours helping take care of others outside of the hospital. She truly had a servant’s heart.

Katie’s scholarship Grand Total is $264,500.

Brianna Lawrence-Wilson plans to attend Regis University where she will be Majoring in Cognitive Science. Brianna received the Regis Presidential Scholarship for $28,000/year, renewable for 4 years for a total of $112,000. Lawrence-Wilson also received the Zonta Club of Prowers County Scholarship, the DAR Good Citizen Scholarship for $500, the Dr. Larry Chan Scholarship through the Nathan Yip Foundation for $1,000, the Kiowa County Conservation District Book Scholarship for $500, the William Glover Memorial Scholarship for $1,000, and a Eads Alumni Association scholarship for $1,000.

Brentley Lening will attend the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, Florida to pursue a degree in Marine Biology. Lening received the SECO All-Star Game Scholarship for $750, the ICBC Scholarship for $1,750, the GN-Bank Scholar Athlete Award for $750, and the FFA Alumni Scholarship for $1,000.

Nathan Lowe plans to pursue a career in the Diesel mechanic industry and to go to Wyo-Tech in Laramie, Wyoming in the fall to help better his skills in the automotive industry. He is also planning on opening his own shop one day. Lowe received the William Glover Memorial Scholarship for $500.

Madison McDowell will attend Oklahoma Panhandle State University in the fall for a degree in Elementary Education. Madison received the GN-Bank Scholar-Athlete Award for $750, the William Glover Memorial Scholarship for $500, the Ethel Johnson Memorial Scholarship for 500, Eads Alumni Association, and the Eads Education Association Future Teacher Scholarship for $1,000.

Keenan Smith will pursue a career in ranching. He will be working on The Longview Ranch in Karval. Smith was an exceptional athlete in the high school sports of football, wrestling, track, and baseball. Smith has been invited to compete in the Kansas-Colorado Summer Kickoff Classic! Six-Man All-State Games in Dodge City, Kansas on June 1, 2024.

Owen Sorter plans to pursue a career in the automotive mechanic industry with the goal of becoming an certified automotive technician.

Porter Spady plans to attend Lamar Community College next fall to continue his athletic and academic career where he will be working toward a Associates Degree of Applied Science degree and certification in the Construction Trades. Spady received the Eads Alumni Association Larry Watts Memorial Scholarship for $500.

All of the Kiowa County graduates have taken their senior trips and are either working or on their way to the next step on this journey we call life. Statistics show that the first 5 years after graduation are the most important years in establishing the kind of life each graduate will have. The Kiowa County community wishes our 2024 graduates the very best and should they learn new skills and develop new ideas and then decide their path is within Kiowa County—well—we would gladly welcome each and every one of them home.

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