When Raegan Bunting was a sophomore at Skyview High, the moment came when she had to decide if she was going to embrace the high school experience or coast along in the background.
It was spring and she was the lead in the school play. On opening day she got a phone call with devastating news and she found herself faced with a decision — retreat or go forward.
She went forward, out on stage in fact, choosing to embrace the experience.
Looking back over the last three years, she knows it was the right decision. Bunting graduates this week and leaves high school for good.
As a 9-year-old, Bunting had moved to Billings from Cody, Wyo., with her dad and stepmom following her parents’ divorce. She settled in, found her groove and grew close to her stepmother. Over the years, she continued to have a strong relationship with her own mother, who had stayed in Wyoming.
“It was great,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed being here a lot.”
She finished middle school and started at Skyview, quickly becoming involved with theater and speech and debate.
She thrived. And then, as her sophomore year wrapped up, Bunting was cast as lead in “Goodbye Marriane,” the school play. Opening day arrived and that’s when Bunting got the news. Her mother in Wyoming had died.
She was devastated. She certainly didn’t see how she could perform in the play.
So she called Jackalynn Snow, her theater teacher, and told her what had happened, explaining that she didn’t know how to get on stage and deal with her grief.
“I have never experienced such a close loss, so I really wasn’t sure how to help her,” Snow said, recalling that day.
Bunting and Snow talked for a while.
“I remember her saying that she didn’t want to sit at home and dwell on it,” Snow said. “She was very focused on those performances and very in character.”
Through the course of the conversation, Snow told Bunting that she could get on stage and still make her mother proud. She told Bunting that being on stage would give her a safe and powerful outlet for her grief, that she could channel it into her performance.
“She helped me stay in theater,” Bunting said.
Bunting doesn’t dwell too much on that period of her life, but she’s quick to praise those who helped her through it. Her stepmom, she said, “was a great support.”
Snow describes Bunting as talented and motivated, a student who has an emotional intelligence beyond her years. She called Bunting curious and intelligent, a person who gets along well with just about anyone.
“She is a fabulous actress, one who can play serious characters equally as well as comedic characters,” Snow said.
Over the last year, Bunting has also been a captain of the school’s debate team. She’s loved her time with the team and the chance it’s given her to mentor younger students.
She felt well supported by friends and staff during her time at the school. She wanted to make sure she gave some of that back to the students coming up behind her.
“I really loved helping other students discover their talents,” she said.
Moving on, Bunting plans to attend Montana State University and study music education. She knows she’ll leave behind some of the support she’s cultivated among her favorite teachers and her close friends at Skyview. But not entirely.
“It won’t go away completely,” she said. “I’ll be able to expand it.”