COULEE DAM – High schools across America have joined in the nationwide ‘Be The Light’ Campaign to recognize and spotlight seniors of the 2020 class who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The idea first started from a high school principal in Texas as a way to honor this year’s seniors class and to recognize a lost final season of high school spring sports or other activities due to the statewide stay-at-home orders.
“It’s all about our seniors,” says Bonnie Boyd, parent and Colville tribal member from Inchelium. “It’s all about making new memories with them since they probably won’t get to make the traditional ones, such as walking down the aisle for graduation.”
“School being postponed has been really disappointing,” says Kevin Daling, Okanogan High School Athletic Director. “I feel terrible for all the seniors.”
Thousands of high schools across the United States have participated on Friday nights, lighting up their football fields for 20 minutes. Now, the campaign has made its way to the Pacific Northwest and in particular the Colville Indian Reservation.
At 8:20 p.m., April 17, the lights at the Lake Roosevelt High School Football field turned on and shined brightly in the dark night sky for 20 minutes.
Community members, along with students, families and friends were encouraged to drive by or park at the football field parking lot, honking their horns and recognizing students and student-athletes of this year’s senior class.
Emergency vehicles parked with their lights on.
“I was just happy so many people showed up for us to show us support possibly one last time,” said Kyle Edmo, (Colville tribal member) a senior at Lake Roosevelt High School who was at the football field that night.
Edmo was set to compete for the Raiders track and field team this spring.
At the exact time on the other side of the reservation, Inchelium High School also took part in the campaign, putting the spotlight on their senior class.
“We had a parade,” said Boyd. “Every senior hopped in their own cars, which either had parents or family driving them.”
Someone had to start the parade and Boyd was kindly forced to the very front.
“Since I had Christmas lights in my car they made me lead,” said Boyd, laughing.
The senior class parade made their way through the small town of Inchelium.
“We went down to Lower HUD and drove around the loop, then went and drove around the big loop going by the Post Office, park, stores and community center,” said Boyd. “We did the big loop twice. There were people sporadically lined up along our entire route. We threw this together last minute, and it was fun to see all the people standing outside cheering and honking as we went by. Inchelium is a town that definitely lets our kids know their importance.”
Athletic Director Steven Carson (Colville Tribal member) of Inchelium expressed the parade thru town idea helped lift the spirits for those in the Inchelium community.
"It lifted everybody’s hearts and put a huge smile on our seniors faces," Carson said. "To be able to support them through this trying time and show them they’re very important to us and we are very proud of their accomplishments just made this hard time a little bit easier."
"They deserve to be celebrated, they’re amazing young adults."
Now why 8:20 p.m. you might be asking? That time was chosen because 8:20 is 20:20 in military time.
Okanogan High School had taken part in the 'Be The Light' campaign a week earlier on April 10
"We had 50+ parents and kids that either parked or drove by the field," said Daling. "It was a really cool event."
"This spring has been such a bummer for the seniors. It was nice to do something to recognize them in a unique way while taking part in a national event as well."
The ‘Be The Light’ Campaign is a great gesture to this year’s senior class, but it doesn’t go without its share of sadness and disappointment.
Guy Stensgar, (Colville tribal member) head coach for the Inchelium girls softball team, entered this spring season with a loaded squad, which was poised for a deep run in the 1B girls state tournament.
“We had a really solid team this year,” said Stensgar.
The past two seasons Inchelium had made it all the way to semifinals of the WIAA 1B Girls state tournament.
“We were looking forward to making state again behind this great senior class,” said Stensgar. “We were extremely disappointed in not having a season this year.”
The Lady Hornets had placed third at state the past two years and were looking to improve on that this season.
“They had a great chance of being duel state champs “Stensgar said. “They really got robbed of that opportunity.”
He’s competed for the Raiders track and field team the past three years and had hoped for an opportunity to compete and qualify for state in his final year on the team.
“When I heard that spring sports were being canceled I was completely disappointed just like every other senior felt when they got the news,” says Edmo.
Last year around this time, Edmo was competing and running in the 800 and 1600 Meters for the Raiders track team. He along with fellow tribal members Devon Hobrecht, Trey Clark and Steven Flowers (tribal descendant) qualified for the WIAA 2B state track and field meet in the 4x100 relay.
Then too there were no doubt those young athletes who’d surprise everyone with their achievements had this year’s spring sports continue.
But for now, they have the lights and the recognition of their families, friends and communities.