Though they differ in many ways, two of Helena High School's best and brightest graduating seniors have long been bound together by the school's student council.
Graduates Grace Johnson, student council president, and Cade Duran, student council vice president, have both left their mark on the school.
"We've been working together for a long time," said Duran, an East Helena native.
In addition to his role as student council vice president, Duran also serves as a student ambassador for the Montana Association of Student Councils. He is a Montana state 4H ambassador, part of the national 4H design team, was a delegate to a 4H global leader camp in South Korea, is a national 4H equity ambassador, was Helena Education Foundation's student of the month and was behind a recent effort to gather and stuff backpacks for kids in foster care.
Johnson, a Helena native, was the president of the HHS mock trial team, an HEF distinguished student, a member of model United Nations, a member of the National Honors Society and is a regular volunteer at her church, where she teaches young children about the Bible.
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For these two, it's the staff and the community that made their HHS experience great. Duran said the teachers at HHS are incredible.
"The building isn't the best and the school spirit has seen better days," Duran said. "But the staff are incredible. A lot of the teachers I've had over the past few years care more about you as a person and not just about getting you through a lesson or getting the grade."
Duran said the teachers go far above and beyond, giving up their own personal time and even personal funds to ensure the success of their students. Duran said the administration and office staff are also wonderful, and he acknowledged the HHS parents who have done so much to support students over the past few years.
For Johnson, it was the whole Bengal community that had an impact on her. She cited times when she would go out into the community to raise money for whatever reason and would receive overwhelming support.
"Being the student council president has made me reach out a lot more," Johnson said. "A lot of people have gotten behind me and the school to make things work."
Johnson said the Bengal community has done so much to give the students a sense of normalcy over the past few years and has been incredibly supportive of whatever the students were working on at any given time.
However, there was a time that stuck out to Johnson as a defining moment of her high school career. It was one of her early student council assemblies when she was serving as secretary.
"I got to announce one of my best friends who won homecoming royalty," Johnson said. "It was like being in a movie."
Johnson said it was during that moment that she knew student council was for her. These assemblies over the course of the years were what defined high school for Johnson.
Duran gave the same answer when asked about the defining moment of his time in high school. The student council assemblies are what made him decide to run for student council office in the first place.
"It just seems like we always had so much momentum," Duran said. "Everyone is there and everyone is really into it."
Duran recalled a Miracle Minute fundraiser when all of the students were competing to donate more. Duran said that school spirit and that competitiveness defined HHS for him.
Following graduation, Duran will be spending time in Livingston working to renovate a house. He also has several 4H events he will attend over the summer. After that, he will go on to Montana State University.
"I'm just eager to learn and experience something new," Duran said.
Johnson will be taking the summer off before attending Wheaton College in Illinois. Following her studies there, she wants to come back to Montana and serve the state and public somehow. Johnson said she is unsure if that means running for office or doing something else, but she has a strong desire to help the people of the state.
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