Despite all of his accomplishments, Nolan Trafton, a graduating senior at Billings Central Catholic High School, has managed to fly under the radar.
If you ask him, he’ll tell you, he prefers it that way. He’d much rather lead by example.
“I don’t look for the spotlight. I never really liked it. I’m always afraid I’ll mess up,” he says.
Nolan has lived in Billings his whole life and has been in the Billings Catholic School System for almost just as long.
In high school, Nolan was a busy guy. He played soccer for four years, two of which as the team’s captain. He played tennis, was a pen pal to a younger student, he single-handedly started a prayer group that met before school and he also served as a tutor.
When Nolan got the chance to coach soccer this spring— his passion — he jumped at it. His pupils: a group of kindergartners.
“My goal was to teach them the basics,” he said. In the end, he said he found the experience both “challenging and fun.”
With the passing of each year, he said he grew as a person and became more confident. “You can only lead by example for so long,” he said.
On Sunday, as he walks across the stage at the Nelles Center to get his diploma, whether he likes it or not, Nolan will finally get the recognition he deserves, as he’s awarded the Lumen Christi Award, one of the school’s highest honors.
The award, which is Latin for “Light of Christ,” is given to two students each year, one male and one female. Both students and faculty vote.
The award stands testament to the fact that although Nolan hasn’t been the most vocal guy in high school, his consistency “of doing the right thing, day in and day out,” has not gone unnoticed.
Both his religion teacher and his English teacher couldn’t be happier.
Mike Martinson, who has been teaching at Central for 24 years, taught Nolan his sophomore and senior years.
Martinson described Nolan as a “silent leader.”
“He’s not loud but he just lives his faith and they notice it,” he
said. “He not only stands out to peers but also to faculty.”
Nolan’s English teacher, Michele Mattix, agreed. “He doesn’t always say much, but when he does, it’s right on the mark.”
Mattix also had the pleasure of teaching Nolan for two years.
“From the first time he walk into my classroom, I said to myself, ‘There’s a young man with a real brightness.’ “
“He’s completely selfless. He lives to lighten other people’s load,” she said.
“I’ve not seen his like in a long time. Like I said, he’s the real deal.”
Nolan’s principal, Shel Hanser, said Nolan is just an all around great guy, someone who espouses everything the school stands for.
For Nolan, graduation will be bitter sweet. He said he’s going to miss the friends he’s grown up with.
That said, he’s also excited to move into the dorms at Montana State University Billings in the fall, where he plans to study accounting.
Nolan said his faith, his parents, his two brothers, his teachers, coaches and friends have been the greatest inspiration in his life.
For next year’s incoming freshman class, he had this advice:
“Don’t stress about the little things. If you worry about it, school becomes a chore and I think it should be something you enjoy and remember for the rest of your life.”
Nolan will be graduating with 83 other Central seniors Sunday
at 6 p.m. in the school’s Ralph Nelles Activities Center.