On the morning of Laramie High School's graduation, history and social studies teacher Will Plumb is trying to pump up the crowd of students gathered for graduation rehearsal. He's running back and forth across the stage conducting the kids in the wave.
Plumb was selected by the 2019 class to give this year's commencement speech at graduation. Plumb says he thinks it's the connection that he made with kids through clubs and activities outside of the classroom that made him their top choice. Graduate Dorian Ackerson echoed that sentiment.
"I think it's because a lot of our class knew him from outside of school and other things out there, so when we finally got to him in school, it was really meaningful for us," said Ackerson.
Graduates had a variety of guesses about what Mr. Plumb's speech will cover. Some believed that he'd announce his retirement or hammer home lessons of perseverance. Everett Chai joked that he would be singled out personally.
"I assume he'll be like 'Everett, I hated you in my class, and I don't like you at all,'" said Chai.
Plumb has something up his sleeve though. He's given the commencement speech before, but he said because he's a storyteller he tends to ramble.
"My last speech was fun but a little incoherent, and I wanted the kids to have something that they could take with them. So my thought was, 'Man, maybe I'm not super good at speeches, but what can I do to send them away with? Oh, I'll write them a song,'" said Plumb.
Plumb plays in several bands, and he is mainly a drummer. He does write his own music, but he described the music that he writes personally as a kind of "dark, alt country."
"So the extra challenge was can I write something that's authentic and uplifting," said Plumb.
He said that the basic chord structure for the song came quickly, but the words took him awhile.
On the evening of graduation, the crowd buzzed with excitement. Each kid received a loud round of cheers from their friends and family as they made their way towards their seat.
Graduation kicked off with the usual pomp and circumstance. After about an hour, Mr. Plumb was invited to the stage, and he received a loud round of applause from the graduates. The graduates still had no idea what was coming.
Once on stage, Plumb revealed that he wanted to do something that the kids could take with them. He wrote them a song, and that this song is theirs.
Plumb's song is titled "The Start" and tells the kids that he's been in their shoes before. He knows how long they have been waiting for this moment. He warns the kids that the world will change on them, but they shouldn't worry. This is only their beginning, and they can't be counted out.
He received a grant from the Wyoming Arts Council and raised money through a Kickstarter to professionally record the song , so it can be heard at any time. He also put in his own money and time to make this special for the graduates.
When the graduates realized that it actually was a musical performance and not a speech, they rose out of their seats and started waving their cell phone lights in the air like they were at a concert.
After the song ended, Plumb took a bow and received a raucous round of applause to a still partially stunned crowd.
Once all of the names were called and the tassels were turned over, graduate Cooper Zane Jackson said he was thrilled by the song.
"It was a complete surprise, and I don't think anyone expected him to do a song as his speech. So it was a lot more than any of us expected or hoped for," said Jackson.
Others say that Plumb's performance was just Mr. Plumb being Mr. Plumb.