Kerri Tallerico and Rick Eastman weren’t beaming exactly, but they certainly looked pleased with the afternoon.
Their son Austin Eastman, a senior at Senior High, was one of 25 valedictorians from across the city recognized Tuesday for his academic achievement.
“It just makes you proud,” Tallerico said. “You want to cry.”
Billed as the Partners in Education Salute Luncheon, the afternoon awards banquet was held in the Montana State University Billings ballroom. The highlight was a series of videos showcasing each of the 25 seniors — from Billings’ four high schools.
“It’s good,” Austin Eastman said. “I’m proud. I put a lot of hard work into (becoming a valedictorian).”
Corrie Holm, one of West High’s 14 valedictorians, said it was a great feeling of accomplishment to finally be where she now is.
“I’ve always tried to be persistent in my studies,” she said.
“She’s wanted to be valedictorian since elementary school,” said her mom, Jeanne Holm. “We’re extremely proud of her.”
The luncheon was organized by the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools, a nonprofit organization that raises money for classroom grants and scholarships for Billings-area students. The group also works to partner area businesses with local schools.
“They do a lot for our schools,” said Barbara Bryan, chairwoman of the SD2 board.
And she praised the group for holding an event each spring to honor the area’s valedictorians.
“It’s important; it’s a big deal,” she said.
Chris Sorli agreed. Her daughter Jeni Sorli is another of the valedictorians from West, and Chris believes it’s important to recognize academic achievement.
“I want to thank the people who put this on,” she said.
For Jeni Sorli, it was exciting to be at the luncheon and realize that her high school experience was beginning to wrap up.
“It’s starting a new beginning, a new period of our lives,” she said.
Many of the valedictorians freely admit it took a great deal of work to get to where they are. Few expressed any regret at having put forth all the effort.
“It’s a really good reward ‘cause we’ve worked so hard,” said West High valedictorian Mahli Ruff.
“Our daughter has been very self-driven,” said Mahli’s mom, Sara Ruff.
“It is exciting to have a student so dedicated,” added her father, Dave Ruff.